The Community Health Endowment is awarding more than $1.5 million for two projects that will help improve life and health in Lincoln.
The Community Action Program will construct a 5,000-square-foot commercial kitchen at its 210 O St. location that will be used to prepare and distribute hot, healthy meals to low-income children in the summer food service program and to low-income children in Community Action’s center-based Head Start programs.
The kitchen will be leased to KinderBites, a local food service company that caters to child care centers, according to a news release.
The kitchen will allow the production of up to 5,000 meals per day for vulnerable children in Head Start, summer food programs and a number of other early childhood centers in Lincoln, said Vi See, executive director of the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties.
Currently, Community Action can’t produce healthy meals that contain fresh produce within its budget and the limited kitchen space at its Head Start center, See said.
The new commercial kitchen will also be used by members of Lone Tree Foods, a group of local farmers, to process at least 2,000 pounds of produce grown locally that will be sold to local businesses.
Local farmers don’t have a place to process and package their harvest so it can be sold to larger providers such as hospitals, school systems and restaurant chains, See said.
The kitchen is part of the Community Health Endowment's Healthy Food Access project, a $971,993 investment, and a collaboration between the Food Bank of Lincoln and Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties.
The Food Bank will also distribute as much as 3,000 pounds of fresh produce weekly to eight areas in the city that have limited access to healthy food, using a new customized van purchased with Community Health Endowment funds.
This will be an expansion of the Food Bank’s program to provide fresh produce to low-income families, said Scott Young, executive director of the Food Bank.
The van is expected to operate four days a week, in the mornings and afternoons, targeting neighborhoods that have less access to fresh produce, Young said.
In addition, the Community Health Endowment is investing another $560,000 in the Schroder Park Family Wellness Campus, which includes the Willard Community Center, Mourning Hope Grief Center and adjacent park land near West B and South Folsom streets.
The grant includes $160,000 for land acquisition and park reconfiguration and $400,000 for a family wellness space in the new Mourning Hope Grief Center that will be built next to the Willard Community Center.
The Community Health Endowment previously donated $100,000 to the Willard Community Center’s campaign to renovate that building.
The endowment was created from the 1998 sale of the city-owned Lincoln General Hospital to what is now Bryan Health. The endowment invests in health-related projects and programs.
These two projects represent the 20-year legacy of Lincoln General Hospital and create their own legacy of health and wellness for Lincoln neighborhoods, Mayor Chris Beutler said at a Tuesday news conference announcing the grants.