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Kanbe's Markets grows produce offerings in East Kansas City

Posted at 10:21 PM, Nov 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-25 23:33:08-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One man's mission to provide quality food is expanding.

In East Kansas City, convenience stores like the "One Stop" on Truman Road between Cypress and Elmwood avenues are quite common. But among the chips, sweets and fountain drinks, some of those stores now offer fresh produce.

"We have delivery every day at nine o'clock — you know, fresh fruit — people are asking about it, a lot of people asking about this," Abraham Singh, an employee at One Stop told 41 Action News.

It's made possible by Kanbe's Markets, a nonprofit organization founded by Maxfield Kaniger.

"On the east side, there's only a couple real supermarkets," Kaniger said, “and they're hard to get to if you're relying on you know, walking or riding your bike or taking the bus."

Kaniger, a University of Missouri at Kansas City graduate began, in 2016 with a single refrigerated stand.

"But we buy, we maintain it and then all of the produce is brought in seven days a week on consignment,” he said. “So that there's no upfront cost to the small business owner.”

And now, with the help of real-estate firm Copaken Brooks, Kaniger signed a five-year lease on a more than 15,000 square foot warehouse in the Coleman Highlands neighborhood. It's an upgrade from the 400-square-foot warehouse Kaniger previously worked out of on Troost Avenue.

Kanbe’s Markets now serve a dozen "mom and pop" shops east of Troost Avenue, an area where there are only a handful of dedicated grocery stores.

"Women come in here to get the kids something before school, after school," said Cynthia Chavez, who owns Brooklyn Market on Independence and Brooklyn avenues. "I have customers that are forever talking about how good it is we got this. He did an excellent thing bringing this to the neighborhood."

Word of mouth has reached 36 other stores that are on Kanbe's Markets wait-list.

"I thought it was going to be a lot tougher, really, having to sell healthy eating,” Kaniger said. “But turns out people want to put good food on the table for their families.”

He plans to beef up staff at the new location to continue the mission of eliminating food deserts in the metro.

"We're constantly learning from the the people we're working with," Kaniger said. "It's not necessarily what I want to put on the shelf. It's what you know, the neighborhood wants. And that can be different from neighborhood to neighborhood. And so we're constantly kind of learning and communicating and trying new things."

The nonprofit now is looking for donated office furniture for their new space. That way, they can use their money to buy more fresh fruits and veggies.

Anyone interested in donating can visit Kanbe’s Markets’ website.