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Johnson County Establishes Healthy Foods Advisory Panel

vegetable display at Hen House Healthy foods are on the agenda for a new Food Policy Council in Johnson County. (Photo: Mike Sherry | Flatland)
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Johnson County has created a panel to advise the county commission on food issues.

One of the Food Policy Council’s goals will be to increase county residents’ access to healthy foods, according to a news release from the county. But the council might also touch on other areas, such as economic development, agriculture and food waste.

The council’s first order of business will be to focus on “food deserts” – areas that lack ready access to affordable and nutritious food – in Olathe, Overland Park and Edgerton. Appointments to the council are expected to be finalized by May.

Nearly two-thirds of county residents are overweight or obese, Johnson County Health Director Lougene Marsh said in the release. Marsh also said about 12 percent of Johnson Countians live in a state of “food insecurity,” not knowing where their next meal will come from.

Representation on the food council is expected to include members from local government, agriculture producers, anti-hunger organizations, retail food outlets, local health systems, school districts and charitable organizations.

The council builds on an effort begun five years ago with a community health assessment. In 2012, after receiving a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, the health department formed an Access to Healthy Food Coalition to study the issue further.

Around the same time, the county worked on improving concession offerings at facilities operated by its Park & Recreation District.

map of johnson county with selected priority areas for food council

Johnson County Food Policy Council Priority Areas

— Mike Sherry is a member of the Heartland Health Monitor team, a reporting collaboration among KCUR, KCPT, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio.

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