The Dakota County Public Health Department recently recognized 360 Communities’ Director of Self-Sufficiency Anika Rychner with a Public Health Achievement Award Honorable Mention in recognition of her work to transform 360 Communities food shelf system to deliver healthier choices to our clients.

“This is more than a personal honor for me,” says Rychner, “It really is a recognition of our strong staff,  generous volunteers, and the incredible community support we’ve had to make healthy food choices and a dignified shopping experience a priority for our neighbors in need.”

Dakota County honors community groups, individuals, and youth who “promote the health and well-being of the citizens of Dakota County.” Rychner was nominated for her leadership qualities, collaborative abilities, volunteerism, and a strong commitment to family and community.

Over the past few years, 360 Communities’ network of food shelves and resource centers have evolved to better serve our customers, understand their needs, and support important long-term stability work. A survey of our food shelf customers in 2015 found that 90 percent of respondents said they wanted more healthy food choices when they came to shop.

360 Communities has created Healthy Food Guidelines that spell out our commitment to the procurement of healthy food options for our customers.  360 Communities is committed to providing high quality and nutritious food for our customers which is a key component in preventing chronic disease and promoting a healthier community.

Over the last year, Rychner and her Self-Sufficiency team have worked with several partners including The Food Group, a local food bank, the University of Minnesota Extension, and Valley Outreach Food Shelf in Stillwater to help redesign our Burnsville Food Shelf. The food shelf space now looks more like a grocery store, where the location of healthy food is front and center. Layout, design, and strategies that include behavioral economics influence shopping behavior and help make the healthy choice the easy choice. As part of this partnership, we are also able to receive support from the University of Minnesota to produce measurable results and track the amount of healthy food we distribute.

Rychner’s leadership has been instrumental in fostering a welcoming environment for our clients with more available healthy food options.  This helps 360 Communities build trust with our food shelf customers because they know we care about their experience with us and we care about their long-term well-being.