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Thursday, 16 January 2014 18:11

Douglas County study looks to boost local food production

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"We want people to find it in a grocery store isle, on their kid's lunch tray, at the hospital cafeteria," Douglas County Sustainability Coordinator Eileen Horn said.

Those are just some of the places the Douglas County Food Policy Council hopes to find locally grown food within the next few years. With that in mind, and with recent funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Health Foundation, the council set out to figure out how to make that possible.

"This food hub feasibility study is going to help us understand what would it take to make more local food available in people's grocery stores, cafeterias and where they can experience it more often," said Horn.

But what is a food hub? It essentially establishes a market and help for local farmers that, in turn, will also benefit the community.

"There have been really successful models that have created jobs, have helped create new markets for farmers, and have also made access to local healthy food something that more people can access," said Horn.

Bringing the food we eat to a local level is a community effort that people seem to support.

"With the Merc, there will be a just and sustainable local food system in our region and I know that we are not going to be able to do that on our own, we need to work with the local partners in the community and in the region to make that happen," General Manager of The Merc Rita York Hennecke said.

But how should that be done? That's what the Policy Council is trying to find out through an online survey.

"Do we need a local packing house? Do we need a distribution point? What do we need to make it easier to connect our local farmers who want to sell their product with the people who want to buy local food and support the local economy?" said Horn.

The survey ends Friday January 17. It can be accessed on the Douglas County website.