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Improvements to sidewalk infrastructure near two Emporia grocery stores are on the way.

The Emporia City Commission unanimously passed a resolution for the Safe Routes to Healthy Food program during an action session Wednesday afternoon.

The resolution was proposed by Healthier Lyon County as part of the organization’s $500,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield Pathways grant that was awarded in 2017, and will facilitate the construction of sidewalks in front of Dillons, 902 E. 12th Ave., and at Good’s Cash Saver, 2703 West U.S. Highway 50.

“We’re really excited, because a big part of this is being able to release $100,000 from our Blue Cross Blue Shield Pathways to a Healthy Kansas grant,” Healthier Lyon County Grant Director Daphne Mertens said. “It will really be up to the city and how quickly they can get on it, but the money to start the work should be freed up in about a month.”

Mertens said she is hopeful the work will begin in the next few months. The resolution, she said, is also sustainable.

“It does have a sustainability aspect built into it,” she said. “The city will be putting a portion of existing funds that they receive, like sidewalk funds, to go toward access point and food deserts in Emporia.”

Mayor Jon Geitz said Safe Routes to Healthy Food is going to be a positive initiative for the city as a whole.

“Healthier Lyon County has done a really good job in the last couple of years securing some pretty big grants from Blue Cross Blue Shield that we can use to promote healthy living in Emporia,” Geitz said.

As part of that grant, the city needed to pass a community policy supporting healthy food initiatives, he said. Now work can begin on making pedestrian access to Dillons and Good’s a little easier.

“Anytime we can replace — or in the case of Dillons — add sidewalk ... this is an opportunity where we can add safety and make it more walkable,” Geitz said. “Anything we can do on Sixth or East Twelfth to make it more walkable or safer is a home run for the city.”

Mertens said this project is just one of many that Healthier Lyon County has in the works.

“We’re excited to see a lot of our projects working together,” she said. “We’re also doing a farmer’s market expansion right now, expanding into north and south Lyon County. We’re looking at food deserts and food access with Safe Routes to Healthy Food and we’re looking at a food-to-farm council to address other aspects of our food systems. There’s a lot of great work being done about food and physical activity and we’re excited to see the combination of some of that work.”

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