- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

ST. JOHN, Kan. (AP) - The Sunflower Foundation has approved a statewide pilot program to help fund community-based strategies for addressing food access in rural Kansas.

The $120,000 pilot project called Project HERO - Healthy Eating: Rural Opportunities is planning to initially fund efforts in eight communities, the Hutchinson News (http://bit.ly/2kd2vi7 ) reported.

The Sunflower Foundation has also partnered with Kansas State University’s Rural Grocery Initiative to give technical assistance to communities. A report and resource guide from RGI will be released at the end of the pilot based on what was learned in each community.

The 12-month pilot has allowed St. John to receive a $60,000 Sunflower grant to open a grocery store in the town of less than 1,300 people. Stafford County Economic Development Executive Director Carolyn Dunn said that after the town’s only grocery store closed almost one year ago, residents have had to drive 12 miles into Stafford to find the closest grocery.

The first phase of the grant is the planning stage in which the town receives $15,000 to design the building and pay any legal fees. The second phase, implementation, involves the $60,000 that will be used to pay for store equipment.

GROW Hodgeman and the Harvey County Food and Farm Council are also receiving HERO grants.

“We know that access to a full range of nutritious foods is critical for the health of growing children and their families,” Sunflower President Billie Hall said. “Yet more and more Kansas communities are losing ready access to nutritious foods … Over time, the consequences of families having less healthy diets will be stark.”

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com

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