There may soon be a regular weeknight meal provided to the hungry in Junction City — at least if Live Well Geary County has anything to say about it.
The organization’s BCBSKS Pathways to a Healthy Kansas Grant Coordinator Susan Jagerson hopes Live Well will be able to start hosting a regular, healthy dinner free-of-charge to community members.
Breaking Bread of JC, the First United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church of the Covenant now serve free meals to hungry community members one night a week — Breaking Bread on Fridays, the Methodist Church on Wednesdays and the Episcopal Church one Tuesdays. Many other groups have put up little free food pantries around the community where people can take what they need. But no organization serves meals five nights a week, which Live Well’s goal.
“Our program just looks to expand on (what others are doing) and to be able to provide meals five nights a week instead of just three nights a week,” Jagerson said.
She said Live Well plans to work with other programs and not against them and to offer options to community members.
“They’ve got really good, established programs,” Jagerson said. “We don’t want to go in and start taking over what they’re doing. But we’re going to work together to figure out the best way to serve our community.”
She said Live Well had been in contact with other communities that offer similar programs in preparing to establish their program.
A Pathways grant from Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Kansas will help make the nightly meal happen.
Geary County is in the second phase of this Pathways grant and part of this phase of the grant is establishing a healthy, communal meal program.
“It’s an opportunity to have funding available to expand or improve the programs that we already have,” Jagerson said.
Because Geary County is one of the worst counties in Kansas for food insecurity, she said the community meal could be a major resource in Junction City. The hope is to provide a regular resource for sustainable, nutritious food.
“Everything we’re focused on is not only access to food, but access to healthy food,” Jagerson said.
Ideally, she said, the program will start at the beginning of the school year. Jagerson said Live Well had been in talks with Unified School District 475 about possibly allowing the meals to be prepared and served out of the Larry Dixon Center, but that nothing was set in stone yet.
Regardless of what happens with the building, Jagerson said, the ultimate goal will be to make sure people don’t have to go to bed hungry and that their bellies are full of healthy food every weeknight.
“We still want to improve our communal meal program and help the people that are doing those meals,” she said.
Once established, it will run all year long, five days a week. The goal is to serve roughly 200 meals each evening to any community member who needs it.
Alongside the food, Live Well wants to provide some education to the community.
“In conjunction with providing meals, the location gives us an opportunity to provide education,” Jagerson said. “Cooking classes, maybe some financial planning classes — different things like that. Some interaction with different groups — maybe with some military groups. So it’s not only just providing the meal but providing other resources as well.”
She believes it could help provide a long-term solution to the food insecurity problem.
“We need to make an impact and this will help us do that,” Jagerson said.