Mattie Rhodes Center receives Food Sustainability Grant

Mattie Rhodes Center

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

Imagine being able to buy locally sourced produce such as African Eggplant, Quinoa, or Plantains without traveling any further than the old Hardesty Renaissance Complex at the corner of Independence Avenue and Hardesty right here in Historic Northeast Kansas City.

Hardesty Renaissance Complex

Thanks to a technical grant awarded to the Mattie Rhodes Center from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), that may become a reality. On Thursday, the EPA and USDA announced that the Mattie Rhodes Center is one of sixteen organizations across the nation that will receive federal assistance in the form of resources and expertise to help boost economic opportunities for their local farmers, while promoting clean air, safe water, open space, and healthy food choices.

The assistance is provided through the Local Foods, Local Places (LFLP) program, a federal initiative that helps communities reinvest in existing neighborhoods and improve quality of life through the sustainable development of their local food economy. LFLP has assisted communities open year round markets featuring foods grown by local farmers and planning cooperative grocery stores that revitalize small-town main streets.

According to Scott Wagner, Director at Northeast Alliance Together at the Mattie Rhodes Center, the grant doesn’t involve funding, but comes in the form of assistance and resources from a team of federal, state, and regional agricultural, environmental, public health, architectural, and economic development experts. The grant is to help develop an action plan, set goals, and identify local assets that can support the local food economy and contribute to downtown and neighborhood revitalization.

“I’m excited about this,” said Wagner.  “I’ve always believed that food as an economic development driver is a no brainer. We’re happy to be leading the discussion that will hopefully grow into a unique business opportunity allowing area grocers and restaurants to buy locally sourced goods rather than having those items shipped in from out of the state or even the country.”

NEAT partnered with the Northeast Chamber of Commerce, the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District, Cultivate KC, the Lykins Neighborhood and local businessman Eddie Musallet to bring the technical assistance to the community.

Locating the project site at the Hardesty Renaissance complex was no accident either. It is hoped that the new initiative can be a catalyst for the adaptive reuse of one of Historic Northeast’s most recognizable icons.

Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce President Bobbi Baker-Hughes, a steering committee member, was excited about the potential of re-starting activity at the Hardesty Renaissance site. “We’re excited because it will give a resuscitation breath to the overall Hardesty Renaissance project,” Baker-Hughes said. “There needs to be a continuing focus on that property and the multiple opportunities for potential projects to locate there.”

The original seven-member steering committee is planning to engage additional community partners to develop an initial infrastructure proposal that could be ready by late fall or early spring. 

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