Event Showcases Local Efforts to Improve Food Access
A panel of experts shared their innovative work in the food system.
Moderated by Emily Bowman, Second Harvest Heartland, a panel of experts shared their innovative work in the food system: Maria Bonilla, Newport Farmers Market; Greig Metzger, Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf; Chef Yia Vang, Union Kitchen; and Ben Anderson, Land Stewardship Project.

On June 5, Washington County Public Health & Environment co-hosted an event with the Metro Food Access Network to showcase the important work happening in Washington County to increase access to healthy food for all residents.

The event brought together over 120 individuals from healthcare, food shelves, farmers markets, nonprofits, government, and the community to learn about food access through an engaging panel of expert speakers and  interactive food system stations. Attendees included Washington County Commissioners Wayne Johnson and Stan Karwoski, MN State Representatives Shelly Christensen and Tony Jurgens, and MN State Senator Karla Bigham.

Washington County is ranked as the second healthiest county in the state, according to the 2019 County Health Rankings, released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. However, a closer look at the local data shows health outcomes for certain populations differ greatly. Low income residents experience some of the largest health disparities in Washington County. Minnesota also ranks among the 10 worst states for access to fresh healthy food, according to a 2016 Healthy Food Access study commissioned by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

Ann DeLaVergne, director of Our Community Food Projects, gives kids a tour of Cimarron Farm.
Ann DeLaVergne, director of Our Community Food Projects, gives kids a tour of Cimarron Farm.

“We need to break down the barriers that keep people from having access to fresh and healthy foods, said Lowell Johnson, director of Washington County’s Department of Public Health & Environment. “A top priority for our department is to make sure everyone, regardless of their social circumstances, has the chance to reach their best health.”

With support from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, Washington County supports organizations working to eliminate disparities and improve access to healthy food and resources. 

The Metro Food Access Network is a network of over 400 food access organizations from across the 7-county metro region, with the collective mission of advancing equitable access to healthy food for all Twin Cities metro residents. Washington County and other metro counties provide funding to the Network, with support from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership.

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