Going to the grocery store can be taken for granted. But for 29.7 million people in America who live in food deserts — areas where it’s difficult to buy affordable, healthy food — that trip is anything but easy.
The result? Access to healthy produce, lean protein, dairy and other staples is not an option for many. Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., are no exception. More than 200,000 people in Clay and Jackson counties in Missouri and Wyandotte County in Kansas live in food deserts.
Many residents are forced to rely on corner stores that often lack nutritious foods. As a result, families suffer disproportionately high rates of obesity, diabetes and other preventable health conditions. It also means that job opportunities are lost, along with new revenue streams generated from healthy food retail and distribution.
The solution? Fresh food financing initiatives. This public/private loan and grant financing helps food retailers overcome the costly initial barriers to operating in low-income and underserved communities.
It’s time for the Kansas City area to consider a fresh food financing initiative. Our 200,000-plus neighbors who live in food deserts deserve access to healthy, affordable food.
Leslie Wilson is a Lawrence native who graduated from the University of Kansas in 2014 with a bachelor of science education in community health. She is the policy assistant with KC Healthy Kids, based in Kansas City, Kan.