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Family finds relief in food desert

The Kansas City Star

As the weather turned colder, Jamie Svejda began putting off going to buy groceries.

The closest store to her Kansas City home near Budd Park is 3/4 mile away. A single mom with no car, Svejda has often walked with her children — Xavier and Sydnee — in tow.

She lives in what experts call a food desert: She can walk to the Taco Bell at the end of her block more quickly and easily than she can walk to the neighborhood supermarket.

On Thanksgiving Day, The Star profiled Svejda and her struggle to provide her family with nutritious foods. Soon after, an emergency room physician at St. Luke’s Hospital, where she works as a receptionist, called to offer her backpacks and drawstring bags to help carry the load.

Then in mid-December she got a message at work that “someone was looking for her.” When she went to the reception area she found a collapsible shopping cart with a copy of The Star article attached. A card was signed from “Secret Santa.” She isn’t sure whether the gift is from someone inside or outside the hospital.

A nurse manager posted another copy of the article in the cafeteria, prompting a woman in another department to offer rides to the grocery store.

“The response has been mostly positive,” Svejda says. “I was surprised to hear from the ER doctor because he doesn’t even know me. Some of the doctors I work with never even mentioned the article.”

To reach Jill Wendholt Silva, call 816-234-4347 or send e-mail to

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