Act: Inspiration

Maxfield Kaniger’s Kanbe’s Markets: A Piece for the Food Insecurity Puzzle

April 18, 2019

On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Executive Director of Kanbe’s Markets Maxfield Kaniger talks about the market’s model to reduce food waste and food insecurity. The network of store owners, wholesalers, and growers are changing the landscape of food insecurity Kansas City, MO, bringing healthy food to families normally surrounded by food swamps. “People are working so hard to put food on their tables for their family, but the system really isn’t there for them,” says Kaniger. “It is really hard or inconvenient for many to get to healthy food.”

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Kanbe’s Markets works with corner stores and convenience stores in underserved communities, providing them with fresh food from wholesalers, growers, and urban farmers. “And we sell the food. We make sure that nothing goes on the shelves that we’re not really proud to put out… It can be sold at an accessible price point while not taking advantage of the farmers,” says Kaniger.

Kaniger’s model helps families access healthy food, suppliers avoid food waste, and store owners boost their revenues: from 2017 to 2018, Kanbe’s helped stores raise their revenues by US$50,000. “Part of the reason I’ve developed this model to help the convenience store owners is because I’m not from the community, and the solution should come from within. They know best,” says Kaniger. 

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To equip store owners for long term success, Kanbe’s supplies stores with affordable, mobile, and convenient coolers so that they can sell to daily shoppers for the long-term. And with coolers guaranteeing fresh food, stores are more likely to be able to accept food stamps from shoppers. “Finding that those coolers were available and affordable for everyone made it the right choice,” for Kanbe’s Markets, says Kaniger.

“We’ve got ten stores that we’ve already partnered with, and another nine on a waitlist,” says Kaniger. “My goal is to be in 30 locations by the end of the year.” While Kaniger notes challenges such as finding cold storage warehouses, expansion within and beyond Kansas City is in sight—and local foundations are stepping up to help. “I want to be able to say that there is at least access to healthy food in every part of the city… We can do that here in Kansas City and then bring the right knowledge and tools with us [to expand to other cities],” says Kaniger. “I think this is a model that could work anywhere.”

Katherine Walla

Katherine Walla is a Research & Writing Fellow with Food Tank. She is currently a student at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service studying food justice and global hunger. Katherine has worked with nonprofit institutions and student organizations related to international affairs and social justice.

Tags: building resilient food systems, food justice, food security, food waste initiatives