Food insecurity isn’t just about not having enough to eat. It’s oftentimes not having adequate access to healthy food. Things like fresh produce, whole grains and quality meats can be expensive or hard to find depending on one’s location. Harvesters goes to great lengths to source all of these items for distribution through our agency partners. But access isn’t the whole of the story. Many people don’t fully understand the importance of nutrition, the impact of food on their overall health or how to work nutritious foods into their diets. That’s where our Nutrition Team comes in. 
Harvesters’ Nutrition Team exists to help our agency partners and neighbors not only have access to healthy food options, but to put nutrition into practice through consultation, education resources, classes and more. 

Kane Sheek, Nutrition Services Coordinator, talks about the importance of placing nutrition at the core of all our services. 

“To really impact the livelihood of the people that we’re trying to serve, we need to think about nutrition,” Sheek says. “If we’re giving out junk food, or if we’re giving out things high in sugar or fat or sodium, we’re not really helping, because we’re putting our neighbors in a place that the food that they’re eating isn’t healthy for them. We need to make sure to put nutrition first when we’re talking about the food that we’re giving out.” 

He goes on to explain that focusing on nutrition helps to break down some of the factors that lead to neighbors needing to seek food assistance in the first place. 

“It really sets up our neighbors and the people that are using our services up for success, rather than continuing the cycle of consuming unhealthy foods that lead to health problems, which lead to higher medical bills and to them needing to use our services even more,” he says. “Breaking the cycle really starts with nutrition and making sure that the people that are using our services are informed and understand what nutrition is and how it works for them.” 

So, how does Harvesters go about doing this? The Nutrition Team’s Healthy Pantry Partnership program works with our agency partners to find ways of centering their operations around the nutrition of the neighbors they serve. We can help them set up their pantries to highlight nutritious options, learn how to source healthier items for their shelves, and convert a “client choice” model for their distributions. Kane shares why this model helps optimize neighbor nutrition. 
“A lot of pantries, especially during COVID-19 were very much, ‘You get a box of food and we’ll put it in your trunk.’ But what we found out is that it’s not the most efficient way to give out food because some people don’t use all of the things in their box for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s against their cultural or religious beliefs, they have an allergy, or it’s simply because they don’t like the food. So we’ve been steering our agency partners towards neighbor choice, where they can go in and it’s more like a grocery store model. Neighbors can pick up the foods that they want rather than just getting a pre-selected box of food.” 

Our nutrition team also works with our agency partners to offer nutrition and cooking courses to their staff and to the public. Some examples are how to meal plan on a budget, how to read a food label and recipe demonstrations that utilize healthy ingredients. We’ve even compiled many of the healthy recipes we use in these classes into a cookbook, which can be downloaded here in English or Spanish

Our Nutrition Team is always excited to find new, creative ways to help our agency partners refocus their efforts on nutrition and provide education and other resources to the neighbors they serve. For more information about any of our nutrition services, please contact us at (816) 929-3034 for Kansas City or (785) 861-7734 for Topeka or email the team at