Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri


Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

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.

For more information, read the full story.

November 2013

Spanning the Missouri/Kansas state line, nine counties, 119 cities and a diverse array of neighborhoods, the Greater Kansas City metropolitan region faces unique challenges to creating healthier communities and promoting healthy lifestyles for children. Working with public, private, nonprofit and philanthropic partners across the region, the Healthy Kids initiative was designed to foster policy, environmental, and systems changes at the neighborhood level and integrate them with related policy initiatives at the municipal and regional levels. The plan focuses on capacity building in the lower-income communities of Kansas City, KS (KCK) and Kansas City, MO (KCMO) to spur additional leadership and equitable change throughout the region over time. 

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

  • In collaboration with KCMO community leaders, successfully advocated for the opening of an Aldi’s grocery store in the Ivanhoe neighborhood, which brought fresh food,and additional jobs to the heart of Kansas City.
  • Established a Grown in Ivanhoe urban agriculture initiative with an active training and education component and a network of farm stands in which licensed home gardeners sell their produce.
  • INC’s Lots of Love program secured $7,000 to repurpose a blighted, vacant lot into an attractive, safe and permanent parklet that will serve as a place for residents to meet and build a sense of community.
  • Launched Ivanhoe’s Small Growers Farmers’ Market with SNAP/EBT benefits at the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Center.
  • Established an MOU with a neighborhood corner store which has agreed to allow Ivanhoe gardeners to sell their fresh fruits and vegetables from the farm stand at the store.
  • Developed a joint use agreement with Faxon School, which allows the Ivanhoe Heat Basketball team to practice in their gym twice a week after school.

Rosedale Healthy Kids Initiative (RHKI)

  • Established a Walking School Bus program at Noble Prentis Elementary.
  • Launched Beans and Greens mobile market at 42nd and Mission, near several low-income apartment complexes.
  • Expanded the number of existing community gardens and garden volunteers at Trinity Church of the Nazarene, the 45th Ave Garden, Minnie Street Community Garden and the South Early Garden.
  • Secured affordable water access at KCK community gardens through the H2O to Grow Initiative, a coalition of urban farmers, gardeners and food advocates.,
  • Completed activity-friendly street upgrades including  three new walking/biking trails, a new sidewalk section, five new bike racks, a repainted crosswalk, bicycle lanes (in engineering phase)  and a pedestrian crossing study on Mission Road to improve safe access into Rosedale Park.
  • Secured local government approval of a Sidewalk and Trails Master Plan, completion of a comprehensive Green Corridor Master Plan, and approval of a new bus line that increases access to a grocery store.

Northeast Healthy Kids Initiative

  • Reopening of the JFK Recreation Center in Douglass-Sumner after being closed for 10 years. The center is open six days a week and provides programs to both youth and seniors in the community.

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.”

Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri