Solution for northeast Wichita food desert in the works

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – “Why are these stores continuing to open every couple of blocks?”

This is one of the questions Wichita councilman Brandon Johnson hears from his constituents about the excess of dollar stores in northeast Wichita.

Councilman Johnson says they can be great for jobs, but they are missing a key demand.

“No produce, no lettuce, no tomatoes, no cucumbers, anything that is really healthy for you. You can’t get those items,” he said.

There is only one Save-a-Lot in his district. Johnson says overcoming the food desert in northeast Wichita has been a struggle.

“The challenge was that some of these bigger stores and nothing against them, they’re looking at the profit margins,” he said.

Johnson says he’s working on a solution. Over the last year, he’s been talking to Wichita entrepreneur, Ashley Faust, who plans to step up to the plate and build a small and local grocery store.

“The need is there. So, we are just letting the community know, we don’t have to depend on others. We can be our own aid,” said Faust.

Johnson believes their vision can be successful.

“You have lower overhead cost, fewer employees, and your supply and demand is really tied to demand and you work with local producers. I think that model can work.”

Faust says the next step to her plan is securing the property.

“At this point, we are still gathering community funds. So, that we can purchase a store. We have a couple of locations and just trying to narrow it down to the perfect one.”

Johnson says they are looking at a location near 9th and Oliver.

“The hope is that these are within walking distance for people who are lower-income, who don’t have reliable transportation. So, they can walk to the grocery store and walk home,” said Councilman Johnson.

Johnson says their goal is to have at least one grocery store opened by the end of the year. If the model is successful, he hopes it can start a chain reaction for more small grocery stores in the district.

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