Leadership and community engagement in supermarket recruitment



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Kansas State University


Tens of millions of predominantly low-income, minority Americans live in food deserts – areas with poor access to healthful, affordable food. Food deserts have been associated with higher rates of diet-related diseases such as high blood pressure and obesity. These diseases carry significant morbidity and mortality and account for hundreds of billions of dollars in healthcare spending and lost productivity per year in the U.S. Establishment of a supermarket is the most effective intervention to eliminate a food desert. However, food deserts have historically been neglected by the retail industry. Local governments are rarely involved in supermarket recruitment. Often, food deserts themselves must recruit supermarkets. This study sought to understand how leadership and community engagement in supermarket recruitment influence its efficacy. The objective was to enable food deserts to more effectively recruit supermarkets. A case study of Argentine, a low-income, minority neighborhood in Kansas City, KS that successfully recruited a supermarket in 2013, was conducted. The heart of the case study was a series of interviews with individuals who were heavily involved in the recruitment. This study found the results of community engagement – specifically a community food assessment – were leveraged to attract funding and financing for a supermarket development. In settings where recruitment of a supermarket is contingent upon obtainment of these dollars, community engagement may be critical. Engagement empowers people to play an active role in shaping the future of their communities. It is a vital component of the urban planning process and government in general. Additionally, in the context of a food desert, engagement of residents can help accomplish the lofty goal of recruiting a supermarket and improving the food landscape – and health – of the community.



Supermarket recruitment, Food deserts, Community engagement, Leadership

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Master of Regional and Community Planning


Department of Landscape Architecture/Regional and Community Planning

Major Professor

Huston Gibson