Emotional and functional benefits of wayfinding systems in your community

Karen Fawcett, CEDIK Program Coordinator

Wayfinding is the ability to orient oneself based on repeated cues from the physical environment such as physical landmarks or signage. It can benefit a community in many ways by strengthening community identity, providing direction through town and surrounding county, highlight interesting destinations, complement town profiles, and strategically improve livability.  Jayoung Koo, professor in the UK Department of Landscape Architecture, has authored three new Wayfinding publications highlighting the benefits, goals, and barriers to the community, residents, and visitors.  The publications illustrate the integrated relationship between an individual’s wayfinding ability and signage system within the community.

wayfinding1_thumbStart your Wayfinding exploration by reading Effective Navigation through Your Community: Wayfinding and Signage Systems for Communities.   Wayfinding is defined and project benefits are listed in an easy to read table.  Koo further writes about examples and reasons for a group to convene and plan a wayfinding system for their community.  Smaller communities may be challenged because of the assumption their residents know where things are located.  “However, a lack of wayfinding elements can present an uninviting atmosphere for visitors, the very people many communities are striving to attract for tourism and economic activity,” writes Koo.

wayfinding2_thumbHow to formulate a wayfinding plan and generate ideas is simplified in Wayfinding Planning and Design with Communities.  A five step process is mapped out with useful ideas, hints, and directions to provide you with a framework to establish a community plan. History and illustrations solidify the concepts and directions to allow a group to successfully plan and design a wayfinding system for their community.

wayfinding3_thumbWayfinding Planning and Design at Work provides information on two projects to provide a range of ideas and illustrations that could be considered in a community.  The scope of the project, funding sources, a historical glimpse, and significance of each project is explained to allow the reader a chance to acknowledge and visualize different systems to effectively reflect the identity of the community.  While the scale of the case studies may differ from your own community, the components of the successful examples can be applicable to individual community goals.

Community readiness, as read in our last blog post, can be thought of as community members’ collective willingness to take on new projects or their state of openness to community change.  A wayfinding system is an excellent opportunity to highlight the positive physical attributes a community has to offer, convey information and enhance a travel experience.  It is a chance to make your community strengths more visible to your residents and possibly entice visitors to stop in and stay a while longer.

To learn more about community design assistance offered by CEDIK, visit https://cedik.ca.uky.edu/content/community-design.

Considering “Community Readiness” – Are You ready?

community-readiness_finalBy Dan Kahl, Assistant Professor, Department of Community and Leadership Development

“Readiness” is a term often mentioned by community developers as a way to describe a community’s collective potential for development.  The concept of community readiness actually may have Kentucky roots. Edwards, Jumper-Thurman, Plested, Ottering, & Swanson (2000) credit the concept of community readiness to Mary Ann Pentz, speaking at the Kentucky Conference for Prevention Research in 1991. And while the concept has been around Kentucky for over 25 years, the importance of community readiness for development is still an important concept today.

Community readiness can be thought of as community members’ collective willingness to take on new projects or their state of openness to community change. For example, an indication of readiness might include a high level of trust and partnerships or collaborative activities between institutions and organizations in the community.  Low levels of community readiness might be characterized by distrust of the local government, or lack of community support or involvement in community projects.

Readiness for change is dynamic. Changes in economies, health, the environment, cultural demographics and/or social relationships can influence the community’s readiness for change. For example, sometimes a disaster will force a community to work together and take action to rebuild.

But communities stuck in status quo don’t need to wait for disaster to establish their openness to change!  Community readiness is something that can be cultivated and encouraged through activities and building relationships.  Sometimes, starting the conversation about the future of the community can kick-start a community’s readiness.  Kostadinov, Daniel, Stanley, Gancia & Cargo (2015) report that, “The mere act of conducting a community readiness assessment helped improve awareness of the issue in leaders and stakeholders (section 3.1 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410196/ accessed 9/1/2016).”

In Kentucky, there are several programs through CEDIK that can support the community coming into a higher state of readiness for action.  The First Impressions Program is an excellent example. An outside reviewer’s constructive criticism and feedback to the community often spark a quick response to address areas of improvement. All of the communities that have utilized the CEDIK First Impressions Program thus far have pulled together to make quick improvements following the outsider feedback they receive.

Another resource available through CEDIK is the Rural Communities Discussion Guide. The guide serves as a customizable template for hosting a community conversation about what residents’ value about their community as they look to the future. Contact Dan Kahl for support with hosting a forum to use the discussion guide. The Discussion Guide can help community members’ decide if they are ready to enter a strategic planning process, or in conjunction with identifying community values as part of the strategic planning process.

A third resource for enhancing community readiness through CEDIK is the Business Retention and Expansion Program or BR&E program. The BR&E process helps businesses and economic support groups (like Chamber of Commerce or Main Street Organizations) to identify and prioritize ways that the community can support their local businesses.

Each of these programs are intended to begin meaningful discussion between community members in ways that help communities organize and prioritize their actions for community improvement. Contact CEDIK if you are ready to jump-start your community engagement process!

Dan Kahl is the Associate Director of CEDIK and Assistant Professor in the Community and Leadership Development Department at the University of Kentucky.

Edwards, R. W., Jumper-Thurman, P., Plested, B. A., Oetting, E. R., & Swanson, L. (2000). Community readiness: Research to practice. Journal of Community Psychology, 28(3), 291-307.

Kostadinov, I., Daniel, M., Stanley, L., Gancia, A., & Cargo, M. (2015). A systematic review of Community Readiness Tool Applications: Implications for reporting. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(4), 3453-3468. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410196/ accessed 9/1/16

Convening: the art of bringing people together.

By Dan Kahl, Assistant Professor, Department of Community and Leadership Development

There is a level of attention to detail needed to bring people together effectively. As our communities become more and more fragmented, the practice of convening can become a powerful process for bringing people back together again. Convening can create “a spot at the table” for otherwise unheard voices. It can establish an environment conducive to meaningful interactions. Effective convening can also serve to create a relational bridge between individuals and organizations, and strengthen the community network.

Before facilitating a group, attention must be paid to convening. Convening begins the process of thinking through how to purposefully bring people together. While step two may be facilitating the interactions of the group, the facilitation effort can be wounded from the start if convening is not done well.

While convening is often talked about in context of bringing people together to address an issue, it need not be. The practice of convening can extend into many areas of community or organization building. Cooperative Extension has a history of convening public groups that dates back to the creation of the Land Grant System. The Smith-Lever Act indicated in Section 4 (c) (2) that each extension plan of work shall detail “the process established to consult with extension users regarding the identification of critical agricultural issues in the State and the development of extension programs and projects targeted to address the issues.”  The role extension educators serve as conveners and facilitators to identify community issues is fundamental to extension work.

kahl_guideA guide was recently published through CEDIK to support the process of convening. This guide is intended to support work with community groups, action coalitions, or project teams. In Extension, it may be used to support efforts to convene people about SNAP-ED Policy, Systems, and Environment work, Farmers Markets or local food work, or to address community youth involvement. You might also consider sharing it with other groups or collaborative efforts going on in your community.

Recent CEDIK Publications

Three new CEDIK publications from our research faculty and staff:

AllenCaptureAllen, James, IV, Jairus Rossi, Timothy Woods, Alison Davis, “Do community supported agriculture programmes encourage change to food lifestyle behaviours and health outcomes? New evidence from shareholders,” International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, May 2016. doi: 10.1080/14735903.2016.1177866.

Abstract: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs have recently received attention for their potential to influence food lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes, though studies have mostly drawn from small samples (n  < 25). Therefore, we designed a survey to test whether CSA participation links to changes in food lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes, and assess if the magnitude of changes varies based on respondent characteristics. A detailed survey was distributed to existing shareholders from three mid-sized CSAs near Lexington, Kentucky, and produced 151 usable responses. Through 20 paired questions, respondents reported on their food lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes both prior to joining a CSA and then after CSA participation. Paired two-sided t-tests assess if paired means are statistically different, and multiple regressions of paired differences on socioeconomic factors, self-reported health, and years of CSA enrollment estimate the effect of respondent characteristics on behavior change. The results strongly suggest that CSAs have the potential to positively impact shareholders’ food lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes, and that those reporting ‘poor health’ prior to CSA enrollment exhibited the most change overall. These results should be taken as an initial, yet promising, analysis of the impact of CSA participation on shareholder food lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes.

RossiCaptureBrislen, Lilian, Jairus Rossi, and Kenny Stancil, “First Processed Produce in Central Kentucky: A Pre-feasibility Study,” The Food Connection, University of Kentucky, May 2016.

The purpose of this study is to assess if there is need for additional services or other efforts to provide “first processed” produce items in the central Kentucky region. By first processed we mean preliminary processing activities such as pealing, chopping, quick freezing (i.e. IQF—individual quick frozen), dehydrating, canning, or other processing of singular produce types (not co-mingling or further preparation into seasoned ingredients or dishes). Our study includes qualitative and quantitative assessment of existing supply for wholesale processed produce, existing demand for basically processed food products, and a preliminary assessment of benchmark pricing for Kentucky-grown produce.

OnaCaptureOna, Lucia, James Allen IV, Alison Davis,
and Xiao He, “Determinants of Bypass Behavior for Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) in Rural Kentucky,” Staff Paper No. 496, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky, June 2016.

Context: Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) in rural Kentucky face financial pressures which has caused difficulty introducing new technology and services and retaining qualified health care professionals. Lack of access to quality and affordable health care leads to bypass behavior among rural residents with serious consequences for rural hospitals.

Purpose: The objective of this paper is to analyze the reasons attributed to CAH bypass behavior among rural Kentucky patients. This study contributes to the literature regarding hospital bypass behavior by updating our understanding of hospital bypass in rural Kentucky, 45 years after the last local study on the topic.

Methodology: Based on the literature, the factors chosen to explain hospital bypass are: location, availability of hospital services, local quality of medical care (perception), and consumer traits. The results obtained from a logit model are presented and discussed in this study. Data was collected by a survey sent to 3,000 rural households in Kentucky in each county served and to surrounding counties often served by CAHs.

Findings: Rural Kentucky patients are in fact bypassing the local CAHs influenced by factors related to hospital location, availability of hospital services, perception of quality of local medical care, and certain consumer traits.


Opportunity Knocks, Kentucky!

Joe Kercsmar, CEDIK Research Associate

“Knocks” is an understatement. On March 7, 2016 the White House launched The Opportunity Project (United States Census Bureau, 2016), a collaboration with private companies to make the governmental data easily accessible and user-friendly. In Washington, D.C. a dozen private firms put on demonstrations of their technology-fueled and community-centered tools designed to improve the economic mobility for all Americans and aid communities in their ability to flourish. These twelve available tools use recently released Federal and local datasets and are currently heavily focused on eight major U.S. cities. Keep an eye out, because there are surely more tools to come. Note that not all tools will be readily usable for every state, or have data at the county or zip code level. However, the PolicyMap Opportunity Tool, Open Data Network, and Community Commons are notable and have features for use by nearly any community in Kentucky.

Gather your priorities, put them in order, and jump on PolicyMap Opportunity Tool (PolicyMap, 2016). Select up to three of your most important priorities, including housing, jobs, education, transportation, and demographics. Then the interactive map will layer the three categories and shade the areas where all criteria are satisfied.


Kentucky residents have the ability to add data points such as schools, grocery stores (including SNAP), and health facilities. Clicking on each icon provides the user with valuable information. For instance, school points have demographics, free and reduced lunch eligible data, and teacher ratio, as seen below. Grocery store points will have a pop-up indicating name, address, and whether it is a limited service (dollar store) or full-service (supermarket).


Where PolicyMap provides data at a community level with details regarding individual schools and stores, Open Data Network (Socrata, 2016) focuses on a bigger picture.  Compare two geographic regions, whether it be cities, counties, metropolitan statistical areas, or bigger areas. In the following example Warren County and Pike County are compared by median earnings, but other options include employment rates, education expenditures, graduation rates, health behaviors, and population.


When selecting two Metropolitan Statistical Areas, the “Health” tab is replaced with “Economy” where either GDP or Cost of Living can be compared between regions.  Perusing the Demographics, Education, Jobs, and Economy tabs will paint a broad picture of the differences and similarities of the selected areas. Locally, your chamber of commerce could use this tool to highlight their community’s strengths and improve weaknesses.


Another tool for finding areas of opportunity is the Community Commons site (IP3 and CARES University of Missouri, 2016). Here you can search previously created GIS maps based on “channels” including economy, education, health, food, equity, and environment. Below is an example of a map in the education channel, showing disengaged youth population for the selected area.


In the food channel, we can explore a map concentrating on students who are eligible for free and reduced lunches, as well as an overlay of the population in various poverty levels. The economy channel includes an informative map giving the 10-year percent change in labor force by county. In Kentucky’s circumstance, the map reveals that the largest decreases in labor force over the past ten years are in Eastern Kentucky and other rural areas, but labor force increased in most of the Metropolitan Statistical Areas. At the time of this writing, Community Commons had 288 maps available on the website to explore.

StreetWyze (Streetwyze, 2016) looks like it has the potential to be an app you can’t live without. They describe their tool as a ground-truthing neighborhood navigator powered by local knowledge. Although the StreetWyze app is not yet ready for the public, it is in beta and available by invitation. If you love your community, and you want to show everyone else what they are missing, then join StreetWyze. Map your area, tag pictures of the best places, and crowdsource information on several topics educating other information seekers, and get the word out about your neighborhood.


With the amount of information available, anyone could get lost in GIS maps for days.  Happy exploring!

New coalition encourages healthy eating, supports local farms

This recent University of Kentucky press release highlights some of CEDIK’s research and how it is making an impact on local farmers and food systems here in the Bluegrass:

By Carol Lea Spence, University of Kentucky Agricultural Communication Specialist

A successful coalition in Madison, Wisconsin, has sparked the interest of a group of local food advocates in Lexington, so much so that they started a similar pilot project at the University of Kentucky. The program joins employee wellness and community supported agriculture—a true town and gown initiative that stands to benefit a great number of people, its advocates believe.

Tim Woods, UK agricultural economics professor, returned enthused from a trip to Madison where he explored the success of the FairShare Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. For the past 20 years, FairShare has used a voucher system to link consumers with local farmers who produce a bounty of fresh, nutritious food. A wide number of organizations, including the University of Wisconsin, distribute the vouchers to their employees.

“This past year, they (FairShare) offered 9,300 vouchers to employees across Madison,” Woods said. “That’s in the area of $6 million in revenue to those CSA farms just in the Madison area.”

Woods believes a program like this in Central Kentucky could be a huge benefit for local farmers who are considering offering CSAs as well as consumers who are looking at making healthier food choices.

“We find so few kinds of interventions that will really encourage such a broad base of change in diet, change in lifestyle, change in focus on nutrition,” he said. “Joining a CSA really seems to pull lots and lots of levers.”

So Woods and College of Agriculture, Food and Environment colleagues Alison Davis, Jairus Rossi and James Allen approached the folks in UK’s Health and Wellness program to partner on a study in 2015. Funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Market Promotion grant, Health and Wellness recruited 90 UK employees to enroll in an organic CSA program. The UKAg researchers conducted an evaluation test and control study, preliminary results of which show interesting trends.

There was a definite shift among participants toward preparing whole food versus processed, and more folks ate at home than they did before enrolling in a CSA. There was also an increase in the daily average fruit and vegetable consumption.

Interestingly, Woods said, participants’ most common reasons for joining a CSA were not health-related. Instead, people joined to gain access to better quality food, to support farms and farmers and to help their families eat better. Yet at the end of the study, CSA shareholders reported better health outcomes in such areas as annual doctor visits, monthly pharmacy expenditures, and perceived health.

That’s what appeals to UK Health and Wellness manager Jody Ensman.

“Our mission statement is to improve the health and well-being of the UK community that we serve,” she said. “We try to do that through education, empowerment and providing resources to become healthier, so this just fit right in line.”

Building on the findings of the research study, the pilot program will continue through the 2016 growing season, with a slightly expanded participation, with Health and Wellness providing $200 vouchers to participants.

Vanessa Oliver, a dietician with Health and Wellness, said this program has the ability to change how people eat.

“Historically, people in the U.S. don’t eat enough produce in general, specifically vegetables,” she said. “But now they have this box (from a CSA) that they pick up weekly, and they have to use these vegetables. They’ve paid for it, and it’s sitting in the kitchen; they don’t want it to go to waste.”

Oliver provides the education to help people break through their comfort barriers. With a meet-and-greet between future share owners and farmers to help participants choose a share that’s best for them and then through cooking demonstrations, videos and Kentucky Proud recipes, she battles the nervousness that many people experience when faced with unfamiliar food.

Education is not just for the consumer. Woods said a big part of the program will be to educate farmers on how to do a CSA, which he said is much more difficult than selling at a farmers market.

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, with its own organic CSA at the Horticulture Research Farm, already has experience in the field, laying a strong foundation for educational programming for producers who want to learn how to manage a CSA program.

“This program could create some really great opportunities for our local producers,” Woods said. “My own view of it is this CSA voucher thing has as much opportunity to invigorate the local food system as almost anything.”

Mac Stone, chair of the Organic Association of Kentucky and also a member of the family that owns and operates Elmwood Stock Farm, which has offered a CSA for 13 years, said that nationally, the CSA business model has about a 50 or 60 percent renewal rate.

“This (voucher program) is a very useful tool to help CSA farms gain and retain membership,” Stone said. “If it’s easier for farms to get their members, it also increases the conversation about healthy eating and how to cook healthy foods with a new subset of the population—people who weren’t farmers market customers or foodies to begin with.”

The Organic Association of Kentucky became involved to support farmers in their transition to organic production methods.

“If we’re going to meet this kind of demand, we need more farmers, so the farm community is going to have to step up in order to keep up, if the wellness programs see the benefits that we think they’re going to see,” Stone said.

The farms for the second year of the pilot program include the UK CSA Program, Elmwood Stock Farm, Sustainable Harvest Farm, Lazy 8 Stock Farm and Rootbound Farm.

The UK pilot voucher program is the first step in what could be a larger program that benefits employees in other companies, as well as more farmers in the wider Bluegrass region. All of this takes coordination, however, so Bluegrass Harvest was formed. Part of the Bluegrass Local Food Initiatives of Community Ventures, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide people with opportunities they might not normally have, Bluegrass Harvest was designed with the FairShare Coalition template in mind.

“In Madison, Wisconsin, they had a handful of farmers and 275 shares the first year, and now they have 57 organic farmers and 9,300 shares,” said Sandy Canon, president of Bluegrass Local Food Initiatives. “The potential for growth is extraordinary. The potential for stabilizing farmer income is extraordinary, and the opportunity to increase health outcomes for the good is extraordinary.”

Already, wellness programs in other companies have contacted Canon to see about starting a voucher program for their employees.

“I am really jazzed about it. There are just no down sides,” she said.

As the data for UKAg’s CSA study is analyzed, results will be posted online at http://www.uky.edu/ccd/csa-research. For more information about Bluegrass Harvest, visit their website, http://www.BluegrassHarvest.org.


Jairus Rossi, 859-227-2431; Tim Woods, 859-257-7270; Jody Ensman, 859-257-3363

How Far Away is Your Hospital?

By Lucia Ona, James Allen IV, and Karyn Loughrin, former CEDIK GIS Associate

Having a hospital nearby is important for many reasons. They have a positive economic impact in the communities where they are established. Hospitals also have services and equipment that clinics and doctors’ offices do not, and are usually where you go in the case of a health emergency. In Kentucky, however, rural hospitals are facing many financial pressures threatening to affect the lives and health of many Kentuckians by reducing the availability of hospital care in the areas where they serve.[i]

Based on that worrying thought, we decided to explore hospital access in Kentucky by asking: how far away is the nearest hospital? To answer this question we started by mapping all the general medical and surgical hospitals in Kentucky and in the surrounding states as shown below.


As you might expect, we found a higher presence of hospitals in the urban centers where there is a higher concentration of people. Other than that, it appears—at first glance—as if Kentucky hospitals are spread out evenly across the state. But does that mean these hospitals are easy to access over Kentucky’s winding rural roads?

To look closer, we wanted to find out if there are any areas farther than a 20 minute drive away from the mapped hospitals. We chose 20 minutes because, in an emergency, you don’t want to travel longer than that—a long ambulance ride is associated with increased risk of death.[ii] The map below shows shades all of the areas within a 20 minute drive. As you can see, there are many gaps in eastern and western Kentucky. We even looked at a 30 minute drive time—referred to by the US Department of Health and Human Services as “excessively distance”[iii]—and some gaps still remained.


However, perhaps those gaps above are unpopulated—if no one lives on that land, then no one is being denied access to a hospital. To test this, we decided to find out how far away is the nearest hospital from each Kentucky city. We define each city on the map by the location its city hall; while we recognize that some populated settlements do not have a city hall, we figured this was a good place to start. We discovered that unlike most metropolitan areas, some of the towns in the rural areas do not have hospital nearby. Although the average drive distance from city hall to the closest hospital is 1.6 miles, there are cases where the nearest hospital from city hall is located more than 20 miles away! The map below highlights all of the city halls that are more than 10 miles from the nearest hospital, many of which are located in far western Kentucky.KYCityHalls_DistHospital


In many areas in rural Kentucky, accessing a hospital remains challenging. Ideally, rural residents should be able to conveniently and confidently use services such as primary care, dental, behavioral health, emergency, and public health services.[iv] This is something important to think about particularly because it has been shown that rural residents tend to be less healthy, older, lower-income and more likely to have a chronic illness than urban dwellers which may increase the need for health care services.[v]

So how do we improve access to healthcare in rural Kentucky, particularly to hospitals? In 2014, CEDIK completed a study where we estimated willingness-to-pay for attributes of rural healthcare facilities.[vi]  We found that Kentucky residents were willing to pay $225 more annually to support a hospital relative to a rural health clinic. While acceptance of Medicaid/Medicare was the most valued attribute, we also saw that having full diagnostic services, an emergency room, and 24-hour/7-day-per-week access were also highly valued. If we can no longer afford to keep our rural hospitals open, maybe we should consider equipping our rural health clinics with some of these attributes (e.g., longer hours, diagnostic services) as a way to extend care to those in need.

Correction: Maps were updated on February 12, 2016 to with a revised list of hospitals after crosschecking with the American Hospital Directory. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank our readers for pointing out our mistake!


[i] Kentucky Hospital Association. Code Blue: Many Kentucky Hospitals Struggling Financially Due to Health System Changes. April 2015.

[ii] Nicholl J, West J, Goodacre S, Turner J. The relationship between distance to hospital and patient mortality in emergencies: an observational study. Emerg Med J 2007 Sep; 24(9): 665-8.

[iii] “Guidelines for Primary Medical Care/Dental HPSA Designation.” Health Resources and Services Administration. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/shortage/hpsas/designationcriteria/medicaldentalhpsaguidelines.html.

[iv] Rural Health Information Hub. Healthcare Access in Rural Communities. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/healthcare-access.

[v] Glasgow N, Morton LW, Johnson NE, eds. Critical Issues in Rural Health. Ames, IA: Blackwell Publishing Professional. 2004.

[vi] Allen IV, J., Davis, A., Hu W., Owusu-Amankwah, E. (2014)Residents’ Willingness-to-pay for attributes of rural health care facilities in Kentucky. The Journal of Rural Health 00(2014) 1-12.

Kentucky Schools Fight Obesity

By Karyn Loughrin, former CEDIK GIS Associate, and Karen Fawcett

Many schools are taking a stand against childhood obesity through different avenues such as implementing nationwide, state or local policies to provide healthier food and promote physical activity for students.The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires schools to raise their nutrition standards during school hours. The meal standards were developed to not only offer healthy meal options, but to allow schools the flexibility to prepare meals that are familiar to kids from the many culturally diverse backgrounds across the nation. As of September 2015, 95% of schools in the US were serving meals that met these standards (USDA/c). In Kentucky, this potentially impacts the 536,182 children participating in the National School Lunch Program and the 307,332 enrolled in the School Breakfast Program as of October 2015 (USDA/a). For low-income children, this program can be a significant portion of their diet during the school week. The map below shows the percent of children  who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals at this county level.

FreeandReducedMealsSchools are also increasing or maintaining physical activities in school to combat an increase in physical inactivity between 2011-2015 shown in the next map below. Kentucky currently has physical education and activity requirements during school hours. Kentucky also participates in shared use agreements allowing students access to school property after hours for recreation and physical activity. Shared use agreements are common in today’s environment and promoted nationally, though some schools are not utilizing this practice due to liability, security and maintenance concerns (Safe Routes to School).PhysicalInactivitySchools are also working on incorporating healthier, locally grown food through the Farm-to-School program. Approximately 702 individual schools in 60 Kentucky districts participated in the Farm-to-School program in the 2011-2012 school year, impacting over 350,000 children in Kentucky. Over $1.6 million school food dollars was invested in Kentucky communities during that time, and 61% of schools say they will buy more local food in the future. Additionally, Kentucky schools planted 35 edible schoolyard gardens providing fresh food as well as an educational opportunity (USDA/b). Encouraging nutritious eating—including adherence to the new US dietary guidelines release last month—can help prevent chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In this way, the schoolyard garden program helped children eat healthier, increased their food literacy and turned their cafeteria into a classroom.FarmtoSchool
There are numerous programs available to encourage healthy children in Kentucky, only a few of which have been highlighted here. Some programs focus on improving food intake with nutritious and local foods while others attempt to encourage physical activity during and outside school hours. By taking a stand against childhood obesity and utilizing these programs, we are working to raise healthier children across Kentucky.


Safe Routes to School: National Partnership. “Share Use of School and Community Facilities”.  http://saferoutespartnership.org/state/bestpractices/shareduse (accessed January 12, 2016).

USDA/a. Food and Nutrition Service. “Child Nutrition Tables”. http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/child-nutrition-tables (accessed January 12, 2016).

USDA/b. Food and Nutrition Service. “The Farm-to-School Census: Kentucky”. http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/census#/state/ky (accessed January 12, 2016).

USDA/c. Office of Communications. “Fact Sheet: School Serving, Kids Eating Healthier School Meals Thanks to Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act”. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2015/09/0242.xml (accessed January 12, 2016).

What is demand for local foods in Lexington KY?

By Jairus Rossi and James Allen IV

Demand for local farm products is on the rise in Fayette County, Kentucky, according to an new assessment by researchers from the University of Kentucky’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK). The study conducted 49 in-depth interviews with buyers and producers in the local food system to determine the total dollar amount of Kentucky-based farm product purchased in Fayette County during 2014 and map out the pathways food travels from farm to table. Interviewees included restaurateurs, retailers, institution and hotel procurement agents, farmers’ market staff, processors and distributors. Click to read the executive summary or full report.


Overall, buyers in Fayette County acquired an estimated $14.2 million worth of Kentucky farm products in 2014—money that went directly to local farmers (Figure 1). Based on growth estimates provided by interviewees, this demand is expected to grow to $20-24 million by 2020. Restaurants are currently the largest buyers of Kentucky farm products with $5.5 million in purchasing. In 2014, retailers, institutions (e.g., schools, universities, hospitals), and hotels purchased $3 million, $1.5 million, and $1 million respectively. Producers who sell directly to consumers through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and farm markets totaled around $3.2 million in sales.


Purchasers in each channel expect growth of at least 5% per year, though restaurants and institutions could increase purchasing by 10% annually overall. Direct-to-consumer farms speculate that their market channel could achieve even higher growth—up to 15% per year—due to increased consumer familiarity with direct markets. By 2020, expected purchasing in restaurants, retail outlets, institutions, and hotels is estimated to be around $8 million, $4.5 million, $2.5 million, and $1.3 million respectively.

Based on these purchasing data, the researchers estimated the final consumer value of local foods once resold by restaurants, retailers, and other purchasers. In Fayette County, consumers spent an estimated $34.1 million on local foods in 2014 and will spend a projected $51 million in 2020. Estimates of end-user purchasing for restaurants were generated by assuming that 30% of a restaurant item’s menu cost goes toward the purchasing of that item’s ingredients. Estimates of end-user purchasing for retail outlets were generated by assuming that 70% of the total cost covers the original purchase from the farmer.

During interviews with those involved in local food market channels, respondents identified four major issues which must be addressed to satisfy unmet demand.

  1. Wholesale purchasers say that Kentucky farmers generally cannot provide a sufficient and consistent supply of produce and protein that meets a certain price point and standard quality. As Kentucky’s climate and comparatively short growing season are one factor in limiting supply, more research into production planning and season extension strategies is recommended.
  2. Price disparities between local and non-local products are a major barrier for increasing local food procurement. Respondents identified the absence of critical food system infrastructures as the reason for this price disparity, though there was not consensus about what would facilitate local sourcing. As such, research into what processing, manufacturing, and distribution infrastructures may help Kentucky farmers compete with national and global producers.
  3. There is concern that general consumers do not understand these impacts of seasonality on what can be acquired locally or why certain production methods may command price premiums, suggesting the need for diverse consumer education programs.
  4. There is also a need for improved communication practices that can help producers and buyers understand more clearly on each other’s expectations in quality, price, quantity, and product presentation. Local food coordinators and other advocates are crucial to this effort.

Click here to see the University of Kentucky press release.

You can also read the executive summary or the full report to learn more about this assessment of Fayette County’s local food system.

Do Kentucky Counties Support Their Entrepreneurs?

By James Allen IV and Shaheer Burney

Economic development often focuses on recruiting large companies that bring a lot of jobs all at once, so it is sometimes easy to forget that the vast majority of businesses in Kentucky are microenterprises with less than 5 employees (see CEDIK’s Small Business County Profiles for specific stats on your county). Given the significant role of small businesses in employment, it is important that we understand reasons for and challenges to entrepreneurship.

For this reason, CEDIK led the implementation of a USDA-funded Kentucky Entrepreneurship Survey, which collected data from over 1,400 Kentuckians on what makes an entrepreneur successful. The survey asked a series of questions to gauge individual’s perception of entrepreneurship in their county. In the sample, about 72% of respondents agreed that their county is generally supportive of entrepreneurs. The map below shows how this perception varied across Kentucky; Southwest Kentucky respondents mostly believe that their county is supportive of entrepreneurs, while many Eastern Kentucky respondents were less optimistic.


What might cause a person to think that their county is or is not supportive of entrepreneurs? Follow-up questions about the political culture of a county provide some valuable insight. In the figure below, we look at statements agreed to by each group. Overall, responses suggest that supportive counties have strong Chambers of Commerce and civic groups, while unsupportive counties struggle with local governments that are fixated on economic development strategies to prioritize large companies over entrepreneurs. Additionally, of those respondents who are or had been entrepreneurs, about 35% of respondents indicated that dealing with government regulations was very or somewhat problematic—a higher percentage than those who said that acquiring startup funds was problematic.


These results call for local governments to reassess their policies toward entrepreneurs in order to help facilitate growth in the local businesses. Already, CEDIK has founded Grow Kentucky (in partnership with Kentucky’s Small Business Development Centers), an Economic Gardening network that prioritizes “growing our own” businesses in Kentucky. Since July 2014, we have worked one-on-one with 15 Kentucky companies and provided resources and expertise customized to their respective industries. With these new results from the Kentucky Entrepreneurship Survey, CEDIK plans to also focus on identifying which local policies can best support entrepreneurs.


Burney, Shaheer, and Alison F Davis. 2015. Determinants of Entrepreneurship from the Kentucky Entrepreneurship Survey. CEDIK working paper. University of Kentucky.