Twenty years ago a grocery store stood on Strong Avenue in Kansas City, Kan., but when it shut down in 2005, residents of the surrounding Argentine neighborhood found themselves without a grocery store and no access to healthy food. They were suddenly at the mercy of convenience stores and fast-food restaurants.
So, for the last two decades, this low-income, Kansas City neighborhood in Wyandotte County has been a food desert, lacking convenient access to healthy food and ready transportation to another grocery store.
It was clear, though, that the Argentine neighborhood wanted their grocery store back when the topic continued to come up in every church, school and community meeting.
Ann Murguia and the Argentine Neighborhood Development Association (ANDA) saw the struggle that Argentine faced and decided it was time to do something.
Thus began the process of building a new grocery store and reviving access to quality, healthy food for the neighborhood.
The challenges ANDA faced seemed monumental. Argentine didn’t have an existing infrastructure for a grocery store, so they had to find or create space; and then they had to build the grocery store.
After working out the infrastructure logistics, they still needed a grocer who wanted to set up shop in Argentine, a difficult sell since Argentine wasn’t on the radar for anyone in the grocery industry.
Even when they convinced a grocer to give Argentine a look, the neighborhood often didn’t meet the normal criteria of the grocery store market. It was clear that it would be difficult to find a grocer that shared ANDA’S goal: a grocery store that provides affordable, quality, healthy food in a low-income neighborhood.
Murgia referred it to it as the “Erin Brokovich story of grocery stores.” She printed off a list of 50 grocery stores, called each one and asked to talk with the top person in hopes for an opportunity to discuss how important a community grocery store would be. Murgia always took the opportunity to talk about the gap between low-income areas and their access to healthy foods.
Many calls later, Murgia finally connected with a like-minded grocer, and Save-A-Lot became Argentine’s new grocery store.
The impact of this new grocery store has been immense, and not just in the area of health. Surprisingly, its presence has helped to foster community. Return trips to the grocery store has what were once strangers now recognizing each other in the bread aisle. Murgia described it as Argentine’s “mini community center.”
The grocery store success has energized ANDA. The association has added some major projects on their plate that allow for an increase in community growth and continued access to healthy foods. Their latest project is a strip mall that includes a healthy food option, Mr. Goodcents.
In a time of desperate need, residents banded together to improve their neighborhood and the grocery store success has since energized ANDA. The presence of a grocery store has created a long-term, positive impact for the neighborhood of Argentine. They now have access to quality, healthy foods, which has helped create a stable, healthy community.
The association has continued to add some major projects to their plate that allow for an increase in community growth and continued access to healthy food, their latest project being a strip mall that includes a healthy food option, Mr. Goodcents. The success of the grocery store in ANDA was the first step in the direction toward a healthier, thriving community.
This blog post is part of A Healthy 10.