Kansas City’s Food Desert Insanity
Kansas City has started to demolish the vacant grocery store at Linwood Blvd. and Prospect Ave. and will subsidize the construction and operation of a Sun Fresh grocery store at the same location to address what urban fabulists have dubbed a “food desert.” We’ve written about this issue here and here. Even amid scores of bad municipal policies, this one stands out.
First, food deserts themselves turn out to be a figment of the imagination. The USDA has published research indicating that people do not rely on the closest store to them. The Star makes this point by interviewing a woman who currently travels well past the closest market for her groceries. She may patronize the new grocery store when it opens, but she has other choices.
Second, the store that was in this location closed ten years ago. If there wasn’t enough private interest to keep it open at the time, or to renovate it while it sat empty for a decade, why does anyone think it will work now? (Besides the fact that taxpayers are subsidizing the rent to the tune of thousands of dollars a year.)
Third, the project keeps getting more expensive. It was estimated at $11 million in 2015. $15 million in 2016, and the latest estimate is $17 million.
In a city that struggles to offer basic services, this is one expensive misadventure that could have been avoided.