Brown County Hosts Community Event Addressing Food Issues

A Brown County FEAST (Food Education Agriculture Solutions Together) event was held Monday, September 24, 2012 at Highland Community College’s Klinefelter Farm Barn in Hiawatha, Kansas.

Brown County ranked 95th out of 100 surveyed Kansas counties in the 2012 County Health Rankings, a survey released annually by the Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The rankings are based on various health factors, one of which is the county’s diet and exercise habits.

“Events like these are necessary because people in Brown County do not have easy access to food and this is an opportunity to find ways of getting not only basic items to people, but healthy and often local food,” said Myles Alexander, Center for Engagement and Community Development project coordinator and a guest at the Brown County FEAST event. “This could grow new businesses, support local producers, and generate greater interest in local foods.”

About 60 participants took part in a panel presentation, small group work, and enjoyed a dinner made from local ingredients.  Panelists included representatives from the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education.

The purpose of the panel was to provide a shared understanding of the current food system and for improving Brown County’s food system. Following the panel presentation, attendees worked in small groups to generate ideas to improve local food production and distribution, and to discuss the influence of children on family food choices.

The goal of the Brown County FEAST program is to help organize participants to develop and strengthen Brown County’s local food system, according to an event flier. The FEAST movement is designed to build on the momentum of the Brown County Healthy Foods Coalition’s work, and to inform, inspire, and support Brown County residents in improving their local food system.

 “The organizers invited all the right people – producers, grocers, and connected community members,” says Alexander. “We were able to address real issues and discuss feasible solutions.”

An additional objective of FEAST is to serve as a model for other Kansas communities interested in positively impacting their own local food systems.

Brown County Health Foods Coalition received a Kansas Health Foundation grant in late 2011, through the foundation’s Access to Healthy Foods Initiative, making events such as this possible.