Impact: Food Retail

Reno County Food Retailers Embrace Healthy Choices

Finding ways to introduce healthier options seemed like a natural extension for a couple of retail food stores in Reno County.

Jackson Meat already creates most of its products inside its store in downtown Hutchinson, so adding fresh produce was a good fit, operator and co-owner Jeni Bryan said. The store used a Pathways to Healthy Living grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas to buy a grab-and-go cooler that sits toward the front of the tiny brick building on 6th Street just off of Main.

“We were able to feature more of our products and more of our homemade items in our store,” Jeni said. “This summer, we had different produce and lettuce in our cooler – some of those locally sourced.”

For years, the market offered comfort foods, but the grant allowed Jeni to offer fresh salads.

“We sure love to be able to support any local producers and local companies,” she said. “I’d like to be able to continue to make relationships with people who sell at farmer’s markets and add additional items they do in the winter.”

The response by customers was excellent.

“We’ve had a great start,” she said. “We do think so many people are trying to eat healthier…they’re more health-conscious than they used to be.” Jeni said her approach is “a very farm-to-table kind of thinking. We’re able to provide a lot of that to customers as they shop with us.”

Moving in the right direction

Jeni recognizes the collaboration and partnership between organizations working to make Hutchinson and Reno County a healthier place.

“I think there are a lot of positive things going on,” she said. “Even having a farmers market twice a week downtown rather than once a week is a good sign. I think Hutchinson is moving in the right direction. It just seems like a lot of the restaurants, they’re really interested in health…it’s just become a new way of life.”

Fast food will never go away, Jeni said.

“There’s always going to be unhealthy choices.”

The key is to make healthier options more available and more affordable. That means having fresh produce and healthy food in all areas of Hutchinson, not just a few pockets. Everything at Jackson Meat is eligible for purchase by people on assistance, she said.

“Because we produce so much of our own products, we really try to keep our prices as low as we can,” Jeni said. “We just want to be able to provide a good, healthy product for our customers.”

Above: A grab-and-go cooler located by the entrance will allow Jackson Meats to provide fresh, healthy, convenient options to shoppers.

More options in Buhler

Hometown Food Store in Buhler also benefited from Pathways to a Health Kansas grant money to purchase two standalone coolers and two non-refrigerated produce tables.

“We have been able to expand our produce section, as well as offer more ‘grab and go’ options,” said Sarah Orem, who manages the store owned by her parents.

The store has a line of gluten-free offerings, and Sarah wants to expand what the store provides.

Like Jeni with Jackson Meat, Sarah agrees that positive changes are happening toward healthy eating options in Reno County.

“Ultimately, I feel like it’s up to the person doing the purchasing, as it’s a personal choice as to what they’re going to buy. But it helps when there are plenty of options.”

Above: Fresh salads and other healthy choices are now easier for customers to purchase at Hometown Foods in Buhler, thanks to their new grab-and-go cooler.

Looking to do even more

If Hometown Food Store receives additional grant dollars, Sarah would like to add more coolers, tables and produce.

“We have a lot of customers that want to eat healthy, but they don’t want to buy or take the time to cut up produce and store it,” she said. “By us being able to offer precut produce in individual servings, it’s helped out our customers.”

Jeni is thinking big if the meat market were to receive additional grant funds.

“We’d look for some way of educating our customers some more – cooking recipes or cooking classes,” she said.

Jeni wants to add sandwiches and wraps to the store’s offerings after the first of the year so people who work downtown can stop by for lunches. The idea is to make sandwiches fresh to order and provide additional freshly made products as well.

“We’re really small, so we keep compacting things,” she said, “but we’d like to have some of those different options.”

Food Retail Centers that Received Pathways Funding

• Jackson Meats

• Hometown Foods Buhler

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