‘Food deserts’ leading to Shawnee Co. food insecurity

Local News

Local organizations are coming together to come up with new ways to fight hunger in Shawnee County. 

According to the Shawnee County Health Department, one in eight adults and one in five children in Shawnee County are going hungry. 

Two of the main reasons people struggle with food insecurity are the lack of major grocery stores nearby and the cost of buying healthy food.

Cindy Sells lives about a mile from a major grocery store and said she finds it easy for her and her family to eat healthily. 

“We don’t eat a lot of like McDonald’s or Burger King or anything like that. We cook a lot at home,” Sells said. 

For some people in the county, not having a grocery store nearby can make it difficult to access healthy food. 

Linda Ochs, of the Shawnee County Health Department, echoed this statement.

“There’s a lot of convenience stores and other ways to get food, but we really want people to have access to that full-service grocery store with fruits and vegetables and options to get better food,” Ochs said.

The staff and volunteers who work in the food bank at Doorstep in Central Topeka saw an immediate impact after the area’s only major grocery store closed in 2016. 

Grace Clinton, the Volunteer Coordinator for Doorstep, saw a spike in food orders when the local Dillon’s shut down. 

Most of the areas in the Northeastern part of Shawnee County are considered food deserts; low-income areas without a major grocery store within a mile, or 10 miles in rural areas.

Through its new Farm and Food Council, the county is determined to change that.

“This group is going to be looking at all the issues of food insecurity, grocery store access, whether we have enough farms that produce local fruits and vegetables, all those issues,” Ochs said. 

In a recent survey, access to healthy food was actually one of the top priority areas that people in Shawnee Co. said needed to be addressed. 

To locate local food pantries, click on the file below. 

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