A strong community depends on an accessible and affordable food system – one that meets current food needs and builds capacity to provide healthy food for generations to come. Yet, in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, approximately 100,810 people (12.5%) experience food insecurity, meaning they do not consistently know where their next meal will come from. More troubling are the pockets of deep food insecurity that exist in northeast, southeast, and northwest Omaha, and portions of Pottawattamie County, where food insecurity rates can reach as high as 48.5%. Food insecurity is even more common among families with children.
To address these issues, more than seventy partners from across the three county Omaha-Council Bluff metropolitan area have come together to produce Healthy Food for All – A Community Food Security Plan for Douglas, Sarpy, and Pottawattamie Counties.
Community Food Security: A condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance, social justice, and democratic decision-making.
Feeding hungry people, promoting consumption of healthy foods, and working across the lifespan to create food security for all is a goal shared by many organizations. However, an analysis of food security needs and assets conducted by United Way of the Midlands in 2017 concluded that despite the multitude of organizations and pantries working toward food security, greater impact would be seen through increased collaboration, sharing common best practices among agencies, and utilizing shared metrics.
Goal 1: All community members have equitable and adequate access to nutritious food.
Goal 2: Food is produced and distributed in ways that create a sustainable system that values workers, consumers, and the land.
Goal 3: Community members have knowledge and skills to grow, select, and prepare nutritious food to maximize resources.
Goal 4: Catalyze community change around food system challenges and root causes of hunger.
United Way of the Midlands served as a neutral facilitator to support the co-creation of a common agenda and mutually reinforcing activities to address food insecurity. Douglas County Health Department, Food Bank for the Heartland, and No More Empty Pots served as strategic co-leads. Broad stakeholder and community input throughout the process in the form of multiple workgroups, summits, and community input meetings ensured the plan aligned with community needs and incorporated the activities already being implemented by partners.
USDA, Iowa West Foundation, and United Way of the Midlands provided funding for the planning process.