Many of our initiatives at KC Healthy Kids focus on improving community food security, which is defined as a condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice. By its very definition, community food security means building food system equity. We cannot succeed in that goal without addressing racial injustice.
We cannot advance the health and well-being of kids and their communities — our mission — if we do not address systemic racism and White supremacy culture.
This work starts within our agency. We understand that it is possible to do harm unintentionally, even when we believe we are doing good. Further, we understand that although our work has always aimed to further equity, we have also been complicit in systemic racism by, for example: failing to examine how the structure of our initiatives can privilege White voices and interests, failing to consistently and explicitly name policies and systems as racist when they have disparate impacts, and failing to challenge inequities in how nonprofits are funded.
We want to do better. In our statement issued on June 6, 2020, we committed to doing so in at least 4 ways. In this, our second statement, we describe how we are following through on this commitment. We are preparing additional updates which will explore the many ways we are taking action in yet more detail.
The urgency and impact of racial injustice in our work demands both immediate action and lasting efforts. We are therefore making a durable commitment to this work by evaluating and updating the guiding documents, including: Employee Handbook, Finance Manual, Strategic Plan and others to include specific policies, methods and goals for building an anti-racist agency culture and improving racial equity within our agency and through our initiatives.
This is not a one time commitment; it includes annually defining the tactics, milestones and frequency for strategies outlined below. We will complete the first round of this process by year end, 2020.
Learn: Increase staff and board knowledge and skills, and build an anti-racist agency culture committed to advancing racial equity.
Assess: Conduct self-assessments and accountable evaluations to understand, monitor and adapt our efforts at advancing racial equity.
Action: Identify short- and long-term actions for us as an organization, and in our initiatives which:
Although some of this work will take months to complete, and nearly all of it will be ongoing, we have already begun to take action. Here are a few highlights about those efforts, which we’ll expand upon in forthcoming articles.
Photos: A grocery worker talks with Jane Philbrook, Kansas City, Kansas Commissioner; Maxine Drew, board president of Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools meets with students from her district; Marquita Williams, an early education professional, encourages children to use their gross motor skills; Jamesha Price, a former teacher at M.E Pearson, shows children how to plant seeds at Splitlog Farm and Orchard.
KC Healthy Kids shares the sadness, frustration and outrage expressed by protesters over the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police custody, as well as other Black people who have met similar fates throughout the nation, including in our community. These events are not isolated; they are part of four centuries of violent and systemic racism in our nation. We stand with civil rights leaders in calling for significant reforms needed to achieve racial, economic and health equity.
We know that words of sympathy and solidarity are meaningless without concrete action. In order to confront and dismantle pervasive racism, we must adapt and grow, as an agency and as individuals.
We are looking at all of the ways we operate our agency, our programs and our policy efforts. Each member of our staff is being encouraged to give input based on their unique roles and perspectives. Then we’ll take time to thoughtfully evaluate what is needed in our organization and what we are well-positioned to contribute amidst the current crises and going forward.
In the following week, we’ll post an article detailing ways in which we are taking action to match our words, and will identify actions our partners and supporters can take as well.
Here is our commitment: We will…
…Seek out and listen to the advice, perspectives and leadership of people of color and ensure effectiveness and accountability as we continue critical self-assessment.
…Continue to foster a culture where staff can respectfully discuss racial equity and hold each other accountable, while recognizing it’s not the job of team members who are Black or People of Color to teach White peers how to be better.
…We’ve always fought against policies that create health and economic disparities. Now we’ll explicitly identify them as racist.
…Encourage our partners and supporters to make a similar commitment. We say to you: your progress and growth is essential to our collective ability to advance equity. Let’s make this a part of every project we enter into together.
We are working to be better. For those who want to do the same, here are some excellent resources:
Changing lifelong eating habits can be a daunting and expensive task. Whether its for environmental, health, economic, or moral reasons, or if you just want you food to taste better, Local food is the way to go! But where do you start? remain calm, we are here for you! Here are our favorite ways to help people just like you start eating more local, organic, and free-range food.
KC Farm School at Gibbs Road is an educational incubator for burgeoning farmers and young students alike. Led by Alicia Ellingsworth, the farm school was established in 2018 to educate and connect the community to land, food, themselves and each other. They are one of the newest members of KC Food Circle™, but the farm itself, formerly Gibbs Road Farm managed by Cultivate KC, has been a well-established anchor and educational resource to the farming community for many years.
A walk through the produce section of a supermarket might leave you thinking we can have all kinds of delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables year-round, at least until you actually bite into that January strawberry from South America. These days, most produce in supermarkets comes from California, Florida, and other states with longer growing seasons. Often it is shipped from other countries thousands of miles away. This is true even in the spring, summer, and fall, when local fruits and vegetables are available.
Update April 24, 2020 The Open Streets initiative is underway in Kansas City, Missouri! Open Streets includes three efforts: automatic pedestrian signals, neighborhood Open Streets permits and road closures near parks and trails. These "local traffic only" road closures create more space for people to be active outdoors while maintaining six feet of social distance:
You might be feeling extra antsy to get outside as stay-at-home orders are extended across the region. Physical activity is an essential activity with many health benefits, like reducing stress, improving sleep and contributing to a healthy immune system. But some parks and trails have closed due to crowding. Many sidewalks are too narrow to walk at a safe social distance. Even with less traffic on the roads, streets aren’t necessarily safer for pedestrians. Just this week one pedestrian was hit, the other killed in Kansas City, Missouri. And Black neighborhoods are more likely to lack parks and green space and have higher rates of pedestrian deaths due to long-term disinvestment.
In response, cities are making space for safe physical activity during the pandemic. The City of Kansas City, Missouri’s City Council passed an Open Streets resolution on Thursday, April 16, 2020 to allow temporary street closures for walking and biking until the state of emergency is lifted. KC Parks has already closed roads to car traffic at Swope Park and Blue Valley Park. Find more information at KC Parks Open Streets.
Our friends at BikeWalkKC have even more ideas about how to make safe space for more people. We have worked with them and other community partners to make streets safer for people of all ages and abilities by advocating for local policies and teaching kids how to speak out for walkable neighborhoods.
Learn how you can speak out for safe, walkable neighborhoods during the pandemic and beyond:
Walking Detective Go on a walking investigation to find clues and collect evidence to learn how walkable your community is. Build a case report to show city officials what things are working well and what things need to be improved.
Speak Out for Safe Streets We have advocated for local policies like Complete Streets, Vision Zero and the Bike KC Master Plan. Contact Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the coalition of organizations speaking out for safe streets.
Updated May 25, 2020
We’ve always fought to defend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps). Now that more people need assistance, we’re focused on increasing benefits and making it easier and safer for people to apply.
It’s normal to be anxious in these uncertain times, but too much anxiety can be hard on our bodies and minds. Dr Nancy Osborn, our in-house psychologist, has pulled together this list of techniques that can help you feel better. Everyone’s different, so find the ones that work for you.
Does it seem like there is a whole new language around food? If you are new to the idea of eating this way, it can easily be overwhelming. Free-range? Animal welfare? What DOES it all mean? Here is a handy little vocabulary list to help you decipher these terms. Don't worry, there won't be a quiz later.