Food council in the mix


January 7, 2014 - 12:00 AM

MORAN — Moran council got the first look at Thrive Allen County’s newest venture, a food policy council for Allen County, at their meeting Monday night.
John Robertson and Damaris Kunkler, from Thrive, and Debbie Bearden, Allen County Farm Bureau, discussed the project and its “seed to table” perspective.
Its three priorities will be:
— To increase economic development in Allen County, including efforts to attract full-time vendors, such as a new grocery. Of each $1 spent at the county farmers market, which will begin its fifth year this summer, 87 cents stays in the county, Bearden said. Also, she said some vendors have developed home-based businesses from the market experience.
— To increase access to safe and nutritious food, including innovative ways to make food more available to low-income families.
— To Increase the health and well-being of all Allen Countians. Bearden pointed out the new sidewalk being constructed along North State Street in Iola will give better access to Walmart as well as promote walking. She added the Southwind Rail Trail was another health-promoting project available to those who want a safe place to walk and bike.
Bearden said the council will include representatives from all communities of Allen County. A primary focus will be finding ways for production and distribution of locally grown food to be more inclusive, and to some degree year-round, she said.
Younger Allen Countians, including children, will be targeted, both for input to the council and for its focus, Bearden said, noting that fresh produce would be touted as a healthier alternative to snack foods.
Robertson pointed out that the farmers market in Iola had become a destination for more reasons than just what is offered for sale, through entertainment and educational programs.
He mentioned that vacant lots in Moran might be acquired by the city and converted to a community garden or orchard space, similar to Iola’s Elm Street Garden.
Good idea, Councilman James Mueller said, but also noted that maintenance would require faithful volunteers.
That’s her cup of tea, said Kunkler, who noted many volunteers were involved in construction of the Southwind Trail from Iola to Humboldt, and that a similar effort might be expected in Moran.
Mueller said some farmers grew sweet corn, part of which “their kids sell up on the corner” of U.S. 54 and Cedar Street. Perhaps they could expand on that phase of production, with corn and other produce, he said. Bearden said the new Farm Bill might promote such activity, with a provision for crop insurance for garden crops.
Robertson said an offshoot of the council, which eventually will be established by a county commission resolution, would have opportunities to seek grants to help pay for any number of food-related projects.
Council members asked for a reprieve to have time to gather their thoughts and for the group to return for another visit.

IN OTHER business, the council:
— Said they would look into recycled tires for underlaying material for playground equipment in the city park, as well as benches and picnic tables. The city may partner with USD 256.
— Approved belated Christmas bonuses for employees of $35.
— Instructed City Clerk Lori Evans to continue the practice of issuing permits for people to burn — such things as leaves — rather than just vocal permission, and also pointed out to residents that permits were required for any residential improvements, including fences.
— Approved a dog tag clinic, which will be sometime in March with the date to be announced later.
— Voted to permit volunteer firefighters to keep as souvenirs gear when it is replaced, with the provision it may not be sold.

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