KU researchers helping local organizations give residents better access to fresh produce

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - For Graciela Martinez, her tienda Aborretes Delicias, or small convenience store, in Kansas City, Kan., is an important stop for many people in the community.

"A lot of folks come to send money back home, and a lot of folks also come for phone cards while they're here they'll also do a little shopping," said Tadeo Melean, an organizer with the Latino Health for All Coalition.

In an effort to address health disparities in the Latino community in Wyandotte County, Martinez replaced junk food with fruit and made candy less accessible.

The Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas received a grant from the CDC to help local organizations, such as the Latino Health for All Coalition, transform smaller grocery stores and restaurants to give residents better access to fresh produce.

"A lot of time I think we take for granted that we know what an apple or a banana is and what it tastes like, and I think a lot of folks in the community might not have that same experience with fresh produce," said Melean.

Jerry Schultz serves as the Co-Director of the Work Group for Community Health and Development. As a researcher, he hopes to improve the health of people in the community.

"The rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc., are much higher than the rest of the population, so it's really a great need and so it's important to help figure out how to reduce those rates," he said.

This is the first year of the three-year project. Researchers are conducting surveys in the community to ask people if they are making healthier food choices. 

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Jenna Hanchard can be reached at jenna.hanchard@kshb.com.

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