What plan does the city have to address the widening food desert issue in northeast Wichita?

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – On Monday, June 21, Vice Mayor Brandon Johnson released a statement confirming that a Save A Lot located at 2402 E 13th St N is closing, thus widening the food desert in the area.

“Not only is this another blow to an area already deprived of access to fresh produce,” said Johnson. “But it will also cause the loss of job opportunities for our community.”

A food desert is an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good quality fresh food.

There are 44 sq. miles in the city of Wichita that are considered food deserts, or lack access to healthy food options. Nearly 100,000 Wichitans live in that area.

Brooke Hattabaugh, who owns land in northeast Wichita, has offered her plot on the corner at Central and Grove to be used as a community garden. In a Facebook post, Hattabaugh said, “I don’t know much about starting a community garden,” said Hattabaugh. “If anyone here would like to reach out to me and teach me how I can use my vacant land to benefit the community PLEASE REACH OUT! I’m open to all ideas!!! ❤️❤️❤️

The City of Wichita and Sedgwick County have a Food System Master Plan in the works to solve the issue of food deserts.

They are currently in the latest phase of the Plan. The next steps are a formal adoption of the Plan by the City Council and County Commission. There will also need to be a creation of a joint City-County Food and Farm Council to implement the Plan.

The Plans process have included a community-wide survey with the objective of assessing residents’ perceptions of their food environment and getting rankings of the Plans’ goals. Pop-up events were held with the objective of the steering committee attending and informing the public about the Plan. They invited attendees to participate in surveys and to attend what would be upcoming meetings. They also hosted roundtables for the Plan with the objective of getting specific feedback from content-area experts and key stakeholders. They then prioritized the objectives and actions from each of the Plans’ goals to re-engage key stakeholders.

The Plan has been organized by its goals, objectives and steps into action.

The first goal is to ‘foster food system coordination and education’ with the following objectives:

  • Objective 1: Support coordination between food system partners
  • Objective 2: Develop and leverage relationships with organizations and businesses working with underserved and marginalized residents
  • Objective 3: Support consumer education and awareness about the benefits of a resilient local food system
  • Objective 4: Support producer education to grow the supply of local food in the county
  • Objective 5: Build community awareness of food waste.

The second goal is to ‘improve access to healthy food’ with the following objectives:

  • Objective 1: Address the 44 sq. miles of the city of Wichita that are considered “food deserts” and lack access to healthy food options.
  • Objective 2: Address affordability of food.
  • Objective 3: Reduce barriers to emergency food assistance programs.
  • Objective 4: Reduce transportation and built environment barriers that limit access to healthy food.
  • Objective 5: Encourage food recovery practices and policies to supply safe, nourishing food to families in need.
  • Objective 6: Make healthy food choices more convenient at work and school

The third and final goal is to ‘increase local food production’ with the following objectives:

  • Objective 1: Support local farm and food businesses
  • Objective 2: Facilitate markets for local producers and food businesses.
  • Objective 3: Provide regulatory clarity and adopt policies supportive of urban agriculture.
  • Objective 4: Support gardening – at home, in neighborhoods, and schools.

To keep up to date and for more information on the Food System Master Plan, click here.

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