Posted by DeAnn Smith, Digital Content Manager - email
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
Inner-city residents have to go to extraordinary lengths to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
Kansas City announced last week that Aldi will open a grocery store next year at 39th Street and Prospect Avenue. It's not soon enough for residents and neighborhood leaders.
KCTV5 has spent months exploring the absence of quality grocery store options in the urban core. These areas are known as "food deserts."
Ivanhoe resident Ernestine Hamilton once a week catches a bus to go shopping for groceries in Brookside. She must travel 30 blocks south and the round trip can take 2 1/2-hours from her day. She saves money by shopping the ads and clipping coupons. She remembers when shopping for groceries wasn't so difficult.
"There were stores all over then," she said. "Stores every place down there on Prospect, everywhere. And they don't have none of that now."
Julie Porter oversees the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) in Kansas City. According to Porter, Kansas City's food desert spans 21 square miles and five ZIP codes.
"The average citizen has to go to great lengths in order to get to a quality grocery store," Porter said. "If you're a senior, you're not going to walk more than three to five blocks."
And Porter said many seniors simply don't have the strength to carry their groceries long distances.
The LISC is among the groups working to remove barriers to healthy living in the urban core. Some groups encourage growing community gardens.
Besides distance, another thing standing in the way of healthy eating is the overwhelming number of fast food restaurants.
"The people in the urban core already have limited means. They know how to survive, what it takes," Porter said. "If that's going to the nearest fast food joint to feed their family tonight, that's what they're going to do."
Some stores advertise that they sell groceries, but their offerings are skimpy and their prices outrageous. A gallon of milk was $5 and a dozen of eggs were $3 at one convenience store.
Natasha Moore, who is raising four children, said the lack of fresh, affordable food has been a problem since she was a child.
"Even if you want to buy healthy, they're so high, you end up not buying healthy," said Moore, who is studying to become a nurse.
One out of three children in Kansas City is considered obese and most of those children live in a food desert. Obese children become adults with heart disease, diabetes, strokes and cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the nationwide cost of treating those illnesses now tops $147 billion.
Porter and residents tell us they are cautiously optimistic about Aldi's plans to move into the food desert. Other grocery chains have made similar promises in the past, but failed to deliver. Groups other than LISC hope to persuade more grocery chains to open their doors in the urban core.
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