Leveraging Community-Academic Partnerships to Improve Healthy Food Access in an Urban, Kansas City, Kansas, Community
Americans can combat overweight (OW) and obesity by eating unprocessed, fresh foods. However, all Americans do not have equal access to these recommended foods. Low-income, minority, urban neighborhoods in particular often have limited access to healthy resources, although they are vulnerable to higher levels of OW and obesity. This project used community-based participatory research (CBPR) principles to investigate the food needs of residents and develop a business plan to improve access to healthy food options in an urban, Kansas City, Kansas, neighborhood. Partner community organizations were mobilized to conduct a Community Food Assessment survey. The surveys were accompanied by flyers that were part of the communication engagement strategy. Statistical analysis of the surveys was conducted. We engaged low-income, minority population (40% Latino, 30% African American) urban communities at the household level. Survey results provided in-depth information about residents' food needs and thoughts on how to improve food access. Results were reported to community members at a town hall style meeting. Developing a strategic plan to engage a community and develop trust is crucial to sustaining a partnership particularly when working with underserved communities. This project demonstrates that, if well managed, the benefits of academic and community partnerships outweigh the challenges thus such relationships should be encouraged and supported by communities, academic institutions, local and national government, and funders. A CBPR approach to understanding an urban community's food needs and opinions is important for comprehensive food access planning.