As the central initiative of her tenure in the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama preached about putting an end to “food deserts,” a phrase she popularized in her healthy eating campaign. According to Mrs. Obama, roughly 23.5 million Americans lived in food deserts.
On late Monday afternoon, Kansas City was reminded of how food deserts become food deserts. Two people were shot and seriously wounded at the newly opened, city-subsidized Sun Fresh Grocery at the Linwood Shopping Center in east Kansas City.
As reported by 41 KSHB, “A woman in the checkout line at the store told 41 Action News reporter Jordan Betts she saw a man enter the store looking scared. That man was followed into the store by at least one other man and the two exchanged gunfire. The woman told 41 Action News the female victim was a bagger at the store.” Both victims are reportedly “clinging to life.” The girl is a juvenile.
The store will be closed through Tuesday at the least. As the Sentinel reported last July, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, plunged into the retail grocery business by investing $950,000 to buy a chunk of the failing Linwood Shopping Center that it could have probably just repossessed.
“Direct development business isn’t something the city is used to doing,” City Manager Troy Schulte told KCUR radio at the time of the purchase. “We had to break some rules and make new rules as we went forward.”
The Monday shooting is a powerful reminder as to why the shopping center had consistently failed. “It’s crazy out here,” a shopper told Betts. “You’ve got to look over your shoulder constantly. You shouldn’t have to live like that. You should want to live in peace and in harmony.”
City Councilman Quinton Lucas seems to have gotten the point. “Upset by reports of shooting at Linwood Shopping Ctr,” Lucas tweeted. “Thinking first about any victims. Thinking next about our community. We’ve got to change this and it is a problem that no new project or new initiative can fix unless we make deep structural changes in our community.”
“Deep structural changes” do not include a Mayor Sly James-led symposium to which no one will be invited who is willing to speak honestly about why neighborhoods become food deserts.