As springtime turns to summer, it's time for families to take advantage of the outdoor resources that Central Kentucky has to offer. For many, this is the best time to break out the grill and fix a great meal of nutritious fresh foods with family and friends.
Unfortunately, because not all of our neighbors have access to healthy foods, the issue of "food security" is increasingly becoming a vital topic in the Bluegrass region.
At United Way of the Bluegrass, raising awareness of the importance of healthy foods is one of our key strategies as we work for change in three areas: education, financial stability and health and wellness.
The affordable health care debate is shifting to preventative care. Taking advantage of fresh nutritional foods is one way to improve long-term health and reduce costs. Better nutrition will also enable children to do better at school.
According to recent studies by Feeding America, a national coalition of food pantries, Kentucky's food insecurity rate of 17.3 percent almost mirrors the state's poverty rate of 17.7 percent.
These numbers are even higher for Kentucky's children, with a child food insecurity rate of 22.7 percent and a comparable child poverty rate of 24.3 percent.
In Fayette County, 48.7 percent public school students are on free or reduced-price lunch, and many depend on schools as their primary food provider.
Because healthy foods are increasingly at the intersection of education, economic stability and health and wellness, United Way of the Bluegrass is adding its voice to the growing conversation about how to ensure that all Central Kentuckians have access to high quality nutritious foods, and to raise awareness of the tremendous economic impact that participation in the local food system can have in our communities.
One forum for discussion can be found at the Bluegrass Food Alliance, a newly formed coalition of social service agencies, local food producers, corporate partners, government entities and concerned citizens.
This community group is coming together to look at food security issues across the Bluegrass region, identify geographic food deserts where people do not have access to fresh nutritious foods, and seek solutions that will result in all Central Kentuckians having regular access to affordable healthy foods.
Not only will these solutions benefit individual families, they will elevate the overall health and wellness, educational environment and economic vitality of the Bluegrass.
Dial 2-1-1 for more information about the Bluegrass Food Alliance, food security, or healthy foods.
We encourage everyone to take part. By adding your voice to the conversation, all of us will continue to make Central Kentucky a better place to live.