ARMA — Over the past year Arma residents now have more access to healthy foods through a community garden, a community pantry, education and more.

A year-end banquet celebrated the work of the Arma Nutrition Council thus far.

Through Live Well Crawford County, which received a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation as part of the Healthy Communities Initiative to improve health equity in Kansas, Arma was provided a community liaison, Matt O’Malley, who did extensive research on the area.

Improving health equity is a “way of saying that some whole groups of people are at a disadvantage on being as healthy as they could be just because maybe where they live,” O’Malley said during the event.

The closest grocery store to Arma is eight miles, they are 10 miles from a pantry — such as Wesley Houses’ emergency pantry — 10 miles from The Lord’s Diner and 13 miles away from a community garden. According to O’Malley, Crawford County is one of the poorest counties in Kansas and there is a low median income level. “It’s even lower than county average in Arma,” he said. In addition, approximately 40 percent of children in Kansas are on the free or reduced school lunch program and in Crawford County that number is 57 percent.

“Arma is one of the higher numbers in the county,” O’Malley said. “That’s almost 80 percent of the kids at the school district who receive free or reduced priced school lunches. So that let us know that the work we want to do needs to happen in Arma.

“When you look at the income level and poverty and things and compare them to how far you are from the grocer who supplies healthy foods, you are at a disadvantage on being as healthy as you could be simply based on where you live.”

O’Malley visited with the Arma City Council to inform them of ways his organization would like to help.

“One of the most impactful things after the meeting was that I was heading to my car and Brenda Banks came chasing after me and said, ‘Hey, I’m the director here at the library,’” O’Malley said, adding that she said the library wanted to be involved. She shared with him that the library has a lunch program for the summertime and approximately 100 kids a day come in and get a free lunch.

“That’s how we found the trusted person and trusted place in Arma, she found us,” O’Malley said.