KCK Summer Meals Program Addresses Big Public Health Issues in Wyandotte County

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'Dotte Meals Provides Meals to Young Residents, Combating “Food Insecurity” and Other Health Problems in the County

A meal program for area children is helping to address major health issues in Wyandotte County. The ‘Dotte Meals program will offer two meals a day during the summer to children living in Wyandotte County. The project is meant to increase the reach of KCKPS’s summer meal programs and to address public health issues in Wyandotte County’s relating to food access.

This year, any child between the ages of 1 and 18 can come and have breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday during June and July. Each site determines the exact dates and times they serve the meals, which are listed on the KCKPS district website. The meals will be served at 40 locations across Kansas City, Kansas, including schools, community centers, and even apartment complexes.

“Last year, KCKPS reached about a thousand kids with breakfast and lunch on a daily basis during the summer,” says Joanna Sabally, Program Specialist for Healthy Communities Wyandotte (HCW), a coalition based in the county’s health department. “But we know there’s more need.”

‘Dotte Meals essentially expands the school district’s summer meal program to all children ages 1 to 18 -- not just students attending summer school. The program also includes more meal sites than the year before.

“Our focus is reaching more kids,” says Sabally.

Lack of access to nutritious food -- also known as “food insecurity” -- was one of several public-health issues that put Wyandotte County at the bottom of a 2009 Kansas-wide health ranking. In 2012, the County Health Rankings report illustrated the scope of the issue, show the county had the highest rate of food insecurity in the state, with 20.3% of residents considered food “insecure” versus a statewide rate of 15%. Residents of the KCKPS district were most affected. Today, over 85% of district students participate in a free or subsidized lunch program.

The county’s health problems led then-Mayor Joe Reardon to launch HCW in 2010 to lead long-term efforts to improve the county’s public health. The current Mayor, Mark Holland, says ‘Dotte Meals fulfills one of HCW’s major goals of increasing food access for Wyandotte County children.

“We are committed to improving food access in Wyandotte County, and are currently working on a Downtown Healthy Campus that would include a new grocery store and locally grown food options,” said Mayor Holland. "And while we know grocery stores are vitally important for our community, ‘Dotte Meals will help us make sure we are also reaching our city’s youngest and most vulnerable residents, and that they get the nutrition they need to succeed and be healthy -- even when school’s out.”

HCW will spread the word about the summer program with “ ‘Dotte Meals Rocks!” door hangers and posters, as well as stickers that were sent home with USD 500 school children during the last week of school.

More information about ‘Dotte Meals can be found at kckps.org/schools or by calling 2-1-1.

‘Dotte Meals is part of the Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS) initiative, organized by the National League of Cities.

About Healthy Communities Wyandotte

Healthy Communities Wyandotte's (HCW) mission is to mobilize the community to improve
health and well-being in Wyandotte County through increased communication, coordination, and culture change. Operating within the Health Department, the countywide coalition aims to help Wyandotte become the most improved county for health in the state of Kansas through innovative leadership and community participation.

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Sarah Shipley