Kansas City’s regional Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities partnership supported neighborhood-based initiatives to achieve and follow through on policy change. As an example, the Rosedale community enhanced the potential of its Green Corridor Master Plan through a combination of follow-up projects, advocacy and constituency building efforts that have generated greater demand for active transportation, strong political momentum and the kind of community watchfulness that can ensure more successful implementation in the future.
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In partnership with groups such as the Rosedale Development Association (RDA) and the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council (INC), the Healthy Kids initiative has made it easier for residents to eat more nutritious foods and be more physically active. These organizations have strong neighborhood roots, impressive records of activism and were ready to conduct the policy and environmental advocacy critical to sustained change.
“As we expand to support more neighborhood partnerships, we want residents to develop the skills to advocate for the long term,” said KC Healthy Kids President Gretchen Kunkel. “Building a healthy community takes time.”
Other organizations involved are addressing problems on a bi-state regional level. The Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition, for example, consists of individuals, businesses and government leaders who are working to develop a sustainable and equitable food system that can deliver healthy foods to children regardless of their zip code. They launched a regional effort to attract grocery stores into Greater Kansas City’s food deserts and collaborated with the Missouri General Assembly to gain approval for establishing a land bank in KCMO. The Mid-America Regional Council, another regional partner, has been instrumental in scaling citizen engagement and worked with local elected officials to pass more than a dozen Complete Streets policies across several Greater Kansas City communities on both sides of the state line.
Because the initiative straddles the Kansas-Missouri border and aims for grounded change in neighborhoods and schools, it will require ongoing cooperation and collaboration on many levels. Other fruits of that collaboration, so far, include:
Ivanhoe Healthy Kids Initiative
Rosedale Healthy Kids Initiative (RHKI)
Northeast Healthy Kids Initiative
The positive changes in participating neighborhoods are becoming evident, and the word has spread to other low-income communities as planned. Project Director Lucinda Noches Talbert sees great opportunity and challenge moving forward. She explains, “When communities hear about the successes in communities like Ivanhoe and Rosedale, they get excited. But the needs of these communities are great and extend beyond healthy eating and active living. Our challenge is to help communities identify the specific policy and environmental priorities they have that can advance children’s health, build their capacity to partner effectively on those issues, and then access the critical resources they need to move forward.”