Wichita Moms Need to Know: Building Community Through A Food System Master Plan

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As moms, one of our many “jobs” is to focus the lens through which our children see their relationship with food and community. What’s super cool, and sometimes overlooked ,is how closely those two things are linked. We all experience pieces of the food system every day, whether that’s shopping the farmers’ market, picking up a Clicklist order or filling up a grocery cart at our favorite store, growing a backyard garden, cooking meals for our families, throwing food packaging away, and perhaps utilizing a composting service. And while we all do interact with the food system on a daily basis, what that looks like for each of us is a little different depending on our families’ needs and priorities.

A food system master plan looks at all the components that make up a food system. It is our opportunity to take a strategic approach to direct how our community and local government addresses food.  Because Wichita is so great, our community has already voiced its desire to see growth in a robust, vibrant, local and healthy food system. In order for that initiative to be successful, we need a roadmap to guide this process – that’s where the City of Wichita/Sedgwick County Food System Master Plan comes in. 

So what is the City of Wichita/Sedgwick County Food System Master Plan?

Right now, it’s an ongoing work in progress as we’re in the thick of the “community engagement” phase, but the potential here is really exciting.  According to the City of Wichita’s Food Plan page on their website, “a master food plan is a long-range planning document that lays out a community’s vision for its growth.  A food system master plan aligns policies such as ordinances, zoning, and incentives to support a robust local food system.” In ours, the steering committee (which includes city staff and a well-rounded group of community stakeholders, myself included!) has identified four areas within the local food system to focus our efforts. 

  • Supporting local food production and economic growth of food-based businesses and farms
  • Supporting community health and wellness, and building upon our community’s food culture
  • Protecting natural resources and reducing food waste
  • Increasing access to healthy food and fostering social equity

How would a food plan affect Wichita families?

Since we all interact with our existing food system in different ways, the food plan has potential to affect us in a variety of ways as well.  For families who lack regular access to healthy foods, it’s a chance to address that at the local level in meaningful, unique ways.  For those of us who want to grow food – whether that’s starting a farm or food business, growing a raised bed garden in the backyard, or renting a community garden plot for example – this plan is an opportunity to make it easier to understand where, when, and how to do that.  A master food plan can support a strong local economy by providing potential to grow our local food production capacity, which can keep more of our dollars spent on food circulating within our community.

Why is it important? Why does Wichita need one? 

Tammi Krier, Wichita mom of three, registered dietitian, and chair of the City of Wichita/Sedgwick County Food System Master Plan steering committee sums it up beautifully: “There is so much opportunity to take what we have to the next level.  I’m excited for the potential future that holds for my children.  I want them to grow up in a place where kids and families are healthier because of the community where they live, where they know where their food comes from and how to prepare it, where their community has taken an innovative approach to support local growers, to protect our natural resources, and to ensure that all around our community, our neighbors can find a healthy food option easily.”

How to get involved?

If you grow food, shop for food, or eat food in the Wichita/Sedgwick County area – please lend your unique and valuable perspective to the discussion.  It’s critical that we share our families’ voices in the planning process of the Food System Master Plan to ensure our unique needs and priorities are considered.

One simple and really effective way to do that is to take the online survey.  It takes just a few minutes and gives us the chance to share our experiences around food and what we think the priorities for food are both for our families and for the local community at large.  Sharing the link with family, co-workers, and friends is ultra-valuable too.  The more perspectives that are recorded, the more robust and effective our food plan will be.  If you have a little more time, consider attending a Food Plan Community Engagement event (find the schedule here).

Food and community are inherently closely linked.  Right now, we all have a chance to decide what that could look like for our families and our kids as they grow up right here, in and around this wonderful city of ours.