The menu has been chosen, and now comes the challenge of preparing all that has been ordered.

More than 2,000 people across Minnesota participated in 127 regional events to draft Minnesota’s Food Charter, which aims to guide state agencies and others on how to increase access to healthy foods.

By large majorities, people attending the events and answering surveys made it clear that they would like to see more done to rebuild people’s skills at cooking, gardening and choosing health foods. They also urged that more be done to work with stores and farmers markets to make healthy foods more readily available and, in some cases, more affordable.

These were among the results that Maggi Adamek, a consultant to the project, reported in a webinar to attendees at regional gatherings around the state on Wednesday. Blizzard conditions forced the cancellation of the Southwest Food Network gathering planned in Granite Falls.

Anne Dybsetter, with the University of Minnesota Extension, is leading the Southwest Food Network. She said that the results from across the state were similar to the main themes that emerged at seven gatherings held in the southwest region during 2013.

There were some differences. People in this region spoke to having better access to healthy foods at farmers markets than was the case in some part of the state, for example.

Yet overall, residents here cited a need to address many of the same issues as were cited in both rural and urban areas across Minnesota. There was a general consensus across the state that unhealthy foods are too easy to get, and much too prevalent.

Most participants had also expressed concerns about what was termed the food skills barrier. Fewer people have the cooking skills or gardening skills that can improve diets. A strong majority of people emphasized the importance of offering more instruction in schools for young people.

Participants also cited a variety of barriers to obtaining and eating healthy foods, everything from the hectic lifestyles and “culture of convenience” of today to transportation issues in reaching well-stocked stores.

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