The Douglas County Food Policy Council, in collaboration with researchers at Kansas State University, have released an analysis of the food systems of Douglas, Jefferson, and Leavenworth counties in Kansas. The report, “Building a Deep-Rooted Local Food System”, identifies the benefits, challenges, and opportunities for creating a sustainable local food system in our region.
Dr. Rhonda Janke and her team at KSU researched current agricultural production, spending habits of regional consumers, key health indicators, food access issues for low income community members and the economic impact of agriculture on the region. “The most striking findings,” according to Janke, “were the significant gaps that exist between what we currently produce in this region today (primarily corn, soybeans and beef) and the other staple food groups our community members eat (eggs, fruits, vegetables, other proteins).” The acres in fruit and vegetables in the region account for only 0.1% of total agricultural production.
Other key findings in the study were that processing infrastructure is a key missing ingredient in the region’s local food economy. The lack of food infrastructure enterprises: cold storage, light processing, packaging and small meat processing plants make it difficult for schools and restaurants to participate in the local food economy. Also food access for the low- income community members is an issue. Over 10,000 residents in the tri-county area live in neighborhoods defined by USDA as “food deserts” where they lack access to healthy food options.
The Executive Summary and the full report can be found online at www. douglas-county.com/depts/ad/ su/ su_home.aspx; or at the KRC website www.kansasruralcenter.org.