Food Desert Mirage Exposed
Food deserts in Kansas City are a mirage. I’ve written about this numerous times before, and the fact remains that proximity to healthy food does not increase demand for healthy food. People in Kansas City and elsewhere vote with their feet, so to speak.
It should then come as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads this blog that the taxpayer-subsidized Sun Fresh grocery store at the Linwood Shopping Center is failing. Despite city-funded construction and dramatically subsidized rent, the store cannot pay its bills. The question now seems to be whether taxpayers should further fund this failing enterprise.
The answer is no. Just as with the years-long debacle with the 18th and Vine Jazz District, the problem here is market demand. There isn’t any; at least not enough to support an additional grocery store in an area that already has Aldi and Sav-A-Lot stores each within a mile of the Sun Fresh. Leon’s Thriftway grocery store, a mere mile and a half from the Sun Fresh, recently closed after 50 years because it could not keep up with the competitive market—presumably including a government subsidized Sun Fresh. This should not be surprising. As The Kansas City Star editorial board wrote in May 2015:
[Kansas City Mayor Sly] James said building the Sun Fresh Market would be the “beginning of the revitalization of this entire corridor.” In truth, that’s been said before. For example, the current forlorn Linwood Shopping Center opened to rave reviews almost 30 years ago on the site of the demolished St. Joseph Hospital.
The editorial board was right to be skeptical then, and that skepticism has been borne out. Good intentions are not a substitute for good policy. City leaders should not waste another penny on this failing enterprise, lest it become yet another perpetual drain on city resources.