Editor’s note: Startland News is showcasing six Kansas City changemakers from five local organizations in its inaugural Community Builders to Watch list. The following highlights one of the 2021 honorees, selected from more than 100 initial nominees by a panel of judges. Click here to view the full list of Community Builders to Watch — presented by Fishtech Group and supporting sponsors Plexpod, Google Fiber and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Access to fresh and affordable food is crucial for communities to thrive, said Maxfield Kaniger, founder of Kanbe’s Markets. The nonprofit envisions an equitable future for people experiencing food insecurity today through innovative food delivery systems that are more inclusive, enhance small businesses and empower individuals to make healthy choices.
Keep reading to learn why Kaniger sees opportunity to help in every dollar.
QUESTION: Tell us about yourself!
ANSWER: I am a Kansas City native, born and raised in Brookside. I went to Primitivo Garcia, FLA (Foreign Language Academy), and then Visitation for grade school, followed by Rockhurst for high school. After a couple of years at Mizzou, I came back to KC and graduated from UMKC.
My life thus far has been formed in large part due to my incredible family. My dad, Dennis, is the most talented chef and teacher I have ever known. He has been a patient voice that has supported and guided me as I developed this idea that uses food as a tool to bring people together. Gabe, my mom, is without question the most caring individual I have ever known. She has created several successful businesses over her lifetime and has provided me with consistent, practical advice as I try to navigate this fast growing company. And then there is my younger sister, Molly. Our competitive sibling rivalry has always been a motivating factor for me to succeed, not to mention that she has always been my loudest cheerleader.
In addition to the love and support and guidance, the greatest thing my parents ever did for me was allow other people into my life. They allowed other people to be a part of our family, to “parent” me and Molly and make us feel truly surrounded by love. It is because of this, that I feel as though I have a huge network of “family” always looking out for me. Always here to support me on this journey. It is that feeling of being surrounded by unconditional love and support that I am hoping Kanbe’s Markets shares with our city.
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Q: When did you first realize your work was building community in Kansas City?
A: I guess I didn’t see it until others recognized it. These communities that we serve have always been here and they have been working hard together for a long long time. My responsibility is to use my privilege, my connections, my knowledge, and my experience to ensure that as few roadblocks exist as possible for the people in these communities to lead us in the right direction.
When it comes to our work, Kanbe’s first responsibility is to listen, the “building” must be guided by the people we serve.
Q: What is your hope for Kansas City’s tomorrow?
A: That we fix some of the most basic systemic issues that have been plaguing our city for generations.
In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.” That statement was true decades ago when he said it yet little has changed. We have the resources, the technology, and a responsibility to fix the systemic problems. Together, I know that we can create an equitable and incredible city where everyone can succeed to their fullest potential.
Q: How can the community get involved with and support your work?
A: We are a new and growing organization, and that means we need help in just about every way you can imagine. From following us on social media, to coming in and volunteering at our warehouse, or at events we have around the community.
Then of course, there is the financial support. We need donations. Every dollar can make a difference. If one person in Kansas City that can afford to purchase a daily cup of coffee would skip one day a month and donate that $4 to a community organization, that is $48 a year. Now imagine if 100,000 people gave $48 a year. That would buy a lot of apples.
That being said, I feel strongly that people should get involved with what matters most to them.
Sadly, there are many social injustices and inequalities to choose from. Even if that is not Kanbe’s, lifting up all our Kansas City communities by offering access to housing, education, jobs, etc, we can and will have a lasting impact. The more people we can get involved in these programs across our city, the more effective each organization can be and the stronger our city will become. Having a healthy, educated, safe city will make every community a better place to live. Isn’t that what everyone wants?
Q: What do you want your legacy to be?
A: I don’t want my legacy to be about something that should have been fixed long ago. I plan to have time to come up with an answer to this question once Kansas City is free of food inequity. I would love for Kansas City’s legacy to be the first city in the country where everyone has consistent access to fresh healthy and affordable food. Like all cities in this country, KC has a long history of division and I would love for us to become a model for how to build a table big enough for everyone to have a seat.
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