Terry Glenn’s neighborhood was hit hard by the recession, and it wasn’t booming before the rough times.
He saw houses crumble, get boarded up and left to rot. He saw neighbors moving away. And he worried that Ivanhoe, on Kansas City’s east side, was dying.
“We said, ‘We’ve got to look inside of this and see exactly what the problem is,’” Glenn said. “And once we did, we found out that the families were moving to try to find better schools, find healthier food, find different places that their family can go and have a good community.”
Glenn is a pastor at a local church, but he wanted to bring more than religion. If Glenn was going to help stop the tide of an emptying Ivanhoe, he and other local leaders realized they were going to have to create a community that would actually attract families to the neighborhood.
They wanted to make the neighborhood livable again. Aside from some nearby convenience stores, there wasn’t much in the way of affordable grocery stores or food shopping. It was easy to pick up junk food and hard to find anything healthy.
Ivanhoe residents drove out to Walmart in Independence, or hitched a ride to Sunfresh in Westport, Glenn says. But many don’t have cars and the combination of a long walk and a bus trip makes it hard to bring back bags of groceries.
“The people who were left here – the people who were still attending the church – we were always taking them to grocery stores, we were always driving them places,” Glenn said. “We were on the hook for helping them.”
At a community meeting, he hatched a plan: the Harvest Learning Center Market.
Today, the market is a small grocery store in the basement of Glenn’s church. It’s a small little shop, just two aisles and a couple of walk-in freezers. But the shelves are filled with fresh produce and they sell meats and cheeses. Glenn partnered with Good Natured Family Farms, a group of about 150 small farms within 200 miles of Kansas City, to bring in fresh food.
The farmers are passionate about growing local food and Good Natured Family Farms says it has a social mission to work with communities where fresh food is scarce and make it affordable. A series of grants matches local food purchased with food stamp benefits, so government benefits go twice as far. Coupled with other grants for the market itself and a partnership with a Price Chopper store that donates some of its leftovers, the market has stayed afloat.
It’s not just a store to Glenn and his customers. It’s part of a campaign to rebuild a neighborhood.
“We decided that we needed to re-populate this neighborhood ourselves,” Glenn said. “Rather than keep praying for someone to move in, we should be the ones doing this.”
So far, they’ve found a little bit of broccoli goes a long way.
This look at Kansas City's east side is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.
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