Healthy Eating Action Report

Action, Advocacy, and Assessment

Promote healthy food retail development and healthy food sales, particularly in food deserts

Among our area’s most pressing issues related to healthy eating is lack of access to healthy food for many in our region. These areas, commonly referred to as food deserts, create a substantial barrier to healthy living for many in low-income neighborhoods.

As a solution to this problem, this action team recommends that the Healthy KC Commission, in partnership with the KC Grocery Access Task Force, advocate for fresh food financing initiatives in Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO) and Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas (WYCO). Specifically, the Healthy KC Commission could convene and build support among member organizations and area funders for joint public-private financing of fresh food financing initiatives to supermarkets to locate new or renovate existing stores in underserved areas. This work could include healthy corner store initiatives to existing small grocery and convenience stores in low income neighborhoods.
Progress for this endeavor will be indicated by the creation of fresh food financing programs in KCMO and WYCO and also by funding of these fresh food financing programs, coming, in part, from private and foundation dollars.
Success for these initiatives will be demonstrated by the number of new stores being developed in food deserts within five years with help from locally funded fresh food financing programs and by a decreased percentage of residents living in areas deemed to be food deserts by the USDA, following new store development.

Champion the use of consistent messaging around five daily healthy behaviors using the 12345 Fit-tastic! campaign elements

The Healthy Eating action team believes that Kansas Citians must hear a clear and consistent message about healthy lifestyles through a coordinated campaign around Children’s Mercy’s 12345 Fit-tastic! program. The five daily behaviors in this program (which are:  1 hour or more of physical activity, 2 hours or less of screen time, 3 servings of non or low fat milk or yogurt, 4 servings of water, and 5 servings of fruits and vegetables) are an excellent and succinct set of criteria that can be followed for community health improvement.
The Healthy KC initiative can help support the work of 12345 Fit-tastic! by integrating the effort into its worksite wellness certification programming, providing letters of support for grant applications for funding, executing a coordinated community messaging campaign, enrolling in the Healthy Lifestyle Initiative, and encouraging local businesses and agencies to do the same.
Progress in this endeavor will be indicated by increased online enrollment of organizations in the Healthy Lifestyles Initiative as well as increased adoption of the 12345 Fit-tastic! message campaign by organizations throughout the community. Another measure of this effort’s progress will be the number of area residents reached with the12345 Fit-tastic! message.

The reach and adoption of the 12345 Fit-tastic! message campaign will be tracked by Weighing In through existing systems.

Educate key decisions makers about the healthy food access challenges facing many in our area

The action team identified that it is imperative to increase support for nutrition assistance programs and policies among elected officials. It was the general consensus of the action team that some policy makers don’t understand the challenges that many in our area face to get access to high quality, healthy food. The remedy for this, in the minds of the action team, is educating policy makers about these issues.
The action team recommends that business leaders in our area increase their advocacy on behalf of nutrition assistance programs and legislation and the healthy eating programs they impact. They suggest encouraging business leaders and elected officials to participate in public outreach campaigns such as the Harvester’s 2015 SNAP Challenge or similar events. The action team also suggests sharing information about economic impact of nutrition assistance programs for KC businesses and the impact of hunger, partnering with local anti-hunger agencies to distribute literature among target audiences, and encouraging the local congressional delegation to support continued support for programs addressing food insecurity, including a September 2015 reauthorization of a strong and comprehensive Child Nutrition Act that supports healthy eating policies and programs.
Progress on this objective could be measured by tracking the number of business leaders who participate in public outreach campaigns related to healthy eating, a letter to the editor/op-ed addressing these issues. Social media posts regarding healthy eating issues and the realities of food insecurity in KC and heightened awareness among elected officials about the prevalence of food insecurity and the impact of nutrition assistance programs locally are other means of measuring and tracking progress.
Success will be measured by an increased number of federal elected officials who support nutrition assistance programs, including reauthorization and funding of the Child Nutrition Act, the healthy eating policies contained therein, and other policy measures that support food security for all.

Raise the percentage of healthy foods offered in places where children and their families learn and play

Healthy habits are formed early and there is mounting data at area institutions, including Children’s Mercy, suggesting that some area children have health trends moving the wrong direction. To improve the health status of area youth and their families, the Healthy Eating action team recommends that steps be taken to raise the percentage of healthy food in the places where these families learn and play.
Much work is already being done by a variety of institutions in this arena. However, the Healthy KC initiative can support the work of those experts and bring additional heft to their effort by building upon research and initiatives of Children’s Mercy, KC Healthy Kids and others to promote healthy foods in schools through school policy actions, build upon the success of the SCORE! program increase distribution of the Eat Smart in Parks toolkit, and encourage expanded offerings of healthy foods in prominent sports and entertainment venues. Additionally, the Healthy KC initiative could collaborate to host sessions for school administrators, local health department officials and wellness committee members on policies that support healthy eating practices.
Progress for this effort could be tracked by measuring the number of school, recreation, and entertainment venues that have policies meeting the stated goals. Children’s Mercy's Weighing In program and area health departments and school district officials would be collaborative partners in tracking these metrics.

Increase the amount of fresh, healthy food provided to food insecure residents through the emergency food network

The Healthy Eating action team identified the need to bolster our area’s emergency food systems. To address this issue, it recommends that the Healthy KC initiative partner to increase the availability of fresh, healthy foods through emergency food networks by substantially expanding infrastructure and capacity of Harvesters and other local food pantries to receive, store and distribute fresh produce and other healthy food. Such an expansion would mean increasing the amount of centrally located and refrigerated storage space, increasing storage equipment in pantries, such as refrigerators, freezers and walk-in space, and increasing the number of freezer blankets, coolers and other equipment for pick-up and transportation by agencies.
Encouraging organizations and businesses which produce or handle food to adopt policies for reducing food waste and donating to emergency food and gleaning agencies is also a recommendation to support this effort.
Progress on this effort can be assessed by the amount of food donated by area farms, restaurants and grocers to local food pantries and the measured square footage of refrigerated space and equipment located in the community. This information could be tracked by Harvesters, After the Harvest, and other area gleaners and emergency food providers.
Success for this work is indicated by an increase in fresh, healthy foods distributed by Harvesters and local food pantries, as measured by absolute volume and as percentage of all food distributed.

Additional Considerations

The food system is vast, and there are a great number and variety of opportunities for the Healthy KC initiative to demonstrate leadership in improving the healthfulness of food consumed in our metro. Our five priority recommendations were carefully selected from a long list of possibilities with merit. This appendix outlines those strategies which did not make it into the top five. The Healthy KC Commissioners may wish to revisit these secondary suggestions if initial efforts in priority areas meet with rapid success.
  • Increase affordability of healthy food for low income Kansans by eliminating the state sales tax on food
  • Increase availability of healthy food in workplaces by role modeling, then encouraging businesses and local governments to improve healthy offerings, and negotiate contracts with food vendors that guarantee a preference for fresh, healthy food
  • Improve access to healthy, affordable food by improving transportation options to sources of such food for underserved areas and people
  • Improve access to healthy, affordable food by identifying and promoting strategies to increase the number of jobs offering pay adequate to sustain healthy eating
  • Increase participation in schools’ breakfast programs by encouraging districts to examine and adopt alternate breakfast formats
  • Increase availability of fresh, healthy food by promoting and advocating on behalf of urban agriculture production in public and private spaces
  • Improve access to healthy, affordable food by supporting new and existing farmers markets and mobile markets