KC Healthy Kids and the Grocery Access Task Force are looking to give a boost to local grocers like Leon Stapleton, who play an important role in the health of their nearby residents.
But that’s a tall order for a store that looks much like it did in 1968 and is in dire need of updating.
The task force’s recent report, Stimulating Supermarket Development in Bi-State Kansas City outlines policy recommendations that would help Leon’s and stores like it make necessary improvements that allow them to provide access to healthy, affordable food for low-income families throughout Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri.
The aim is to counteract the historical effects of blockbusting and other policy changes that were racially charged and resulted in white families moving to the suburbs in the mid-1900s leaving areas in blight.
Today that means few grocery stores and supermarkets are left to serve the blighted neighborhoods. But given that a significant and growing body of research has found that people with convenient access to a grocery store or supermarket eat more fruits and vegetables (and are more likely to maintain a healthy weight), the stores are needed more than ever.
“Leon’s Thriftway does a good job of providing fresh food vegetables and meat,” says Beth Low-Smith, vice president of policy at KC Healthy Kids and task force member. “But they are doing so in a store location that is significantly older than most suburban stores. They have higher operating costs that make it hard to compete with other stores.”
Part of KC Healthy Kids’ role is to stop this cycle and make it easier for people to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Renovating the grocery store is one more step in strengthening the community that has a growing neighborhood association and Seven Oaks Park, a large green space with a recently added splash park.
“We would like to establish a fresh food fund and we have financial projections about how this might work, and we’ve asked (Leon’s) to participate,” Low-Smith. “We want to plan a renovation and see what sorts of changes would help Leon’s.”
With these recommendations in mind, the task force wants to see fresh food financing funds established to help those grocers who could use a boost to make an impact with their customers.
Leon’s is a family business. His son Vernon and his granddaughter Michelle spoke with policy makers during a recent tour and helped them understand the challenges of running a profitable grocery business. They also talked about updates the store needs—sliding doors, a fresh food bar, and relocating the produce section for example— to be more welcoming and provide better service.
Good employees are critical to the success of Leon’s Thriftway, and the management would like to be able to offer more benefits in order to attract and retain them.
An update to Leon’s would include moving the produce section to the front entrance where better sales would mean faster turnover and fresher options. But a renovation would also have to include a plan for employees who wouldn’t be able to work during construction.
This is the second in our series on Leon’s Thriftway and the community it serves.
AUG 02, 2016 Longtime black-owned grocery store seeks updates to keep with the times
AUG 21, 2016 Green spaces, grocery store helps Seven Oaks Neighborhood to thrive