Two organizations wanted to debunk the notion that healthy food is expensive and difficult to obtain in western Independence.

Representatives from the Independence Department of Health and the University of Missouri Extension conducted healthy cooking demonstrations at various food markets located in areas of western Independence that are referred to as ‘food deserts,’ an impoverished region where its population has little to no access to fruits, vegetables or other healthful foods.

Registered Dietitian Angie Lanigan and Registered Dietetic Technician Amy Vance, both from the MU Extension Urban West region team, and Public Health Specialist Nathan Matney of the Health Department said that healthy and nutritious foods can be affordable, take little time to prepare and can even be purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding. For instance, Lanigan and Vance demonstrated healthy alternatives by cooking a summer squash and corn medley at Curt’s Famous Meats they said only costs around $3 in ingredients, takes just half an hour to cook and yields up to four servings.

“A vegetable in a recipe can cost only 50 cents apiece,” Vance said.

“It only takes common kitchen equipment to make these kinds of foods too,” said Lanigan. “The only fancy thing you’ll probably need is a blender.”

Lanigan and Vance both said those seeking healthier yet low-cost meal ideas can visit .

And healthy food is not synonymous with organic food, either, she added. The aim behind Friday’s cooking demonstrations is to increase the consumption of nutritious food. IDH Director Larry Jones previously said a poor diet can lead to chronic diseases.

At least three food markets in western Independence have partnered with the Health Department to offer more healthy food products or place shelf toppers throughout aisles to show customers a food item high in nutritional content.

“Independence Health Department approached us about its healthy food initiative,” said Donna Pittman, owner of Curt’s Famous Meats, 10101 E. Truman Road in Independence. “We gladly partnered up with them and encourage healthy food choices.”

She said her store not only provides organic meats, like domestic rabbit and lamb, but also fresh, locally grown produce and even fresh seafood, such as king salmon and scallops.

“Customers like these offerings and appreciate it. We stray from processed foods.”

Matney mentioned that simply a means of transportation can prevent people in food deserts access to fresh food.

“Not being able to drive to the store can prevent people from buying fresh produce or other healthy alternatives,” he said, “but these cornerstores (Curt’s Famous Meats, 7-Eleven at 201 E. U.S. 24 and La Plaza Market at 11004 E. Winner Road) increase food options that are low-fat, whole grain and low in sodium.” He added that canned vegetables and some fruits also suffice as a substitute if consumers are unable to purchase seasonal produce.

“People are surprised when they try these vegetables or fruits for the first time,” said Matney. “They like them and it changes their perspective.”