Dream It. Build It. Grow It.

Story by Dave Eckert

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Shanita McAfee-Bryant calls it The Prospect Urban Eatery, which aims to teach culinary skills to low income, inner city residents. Thanks to a recent $250,000 grant from the Kauffman Foundation, the project is one giant step closer to completion. “This is like a new phenomenon. They’re called social enterprises where a non-profit component is connected to a for-profit piece. The Prospect KC is the non-profit aspect, a culinary workforce development program, and The Prospect Urban eatery gives us a kitchen where we can cook and train. The two go hand in hand,” McAfee-Bryant shared. “The grant puts about half-way there to securing the building and equipment we need.”

The grant will help The Prospect KC secure a building for the project, which will ultimately house not just a kitchen, but be home to a year-long culinary training program. “The programs will be in 16-week increments with 15-20 new students every 16-weeks throughout the year,” McAfee-Bryant said. “We would also offer different services to the community through a variety of partnerships such as providing nourishing and healthy meals to our community.”

At its roots, The Prospect KC addresses the core issues of underemployed or unemployed persons in the city’s urban core. “Hence the name Prospect. When you think of the name Prospect here, you think poor, unsafe, blighted, underdeveloped, and food desert-all of the negative connotations. But, when you’re in sales and you think Prospect, you think about potential, development, sales, and money. We want to flip that definition in Kansas City,” McAfee-Bryant told me.

McAfee-Bryant is tackling Kansas City’s urban food issues head on. Long a problem in our nation’s urban core, food deserts contribute to a wide variety of problems, including:

  • Longer distances to secure food
  • Higher prices
  • Higher rates of obesity, and a variety of other diet-related health issues
  • Higher rates of food insecurity
  • Behavioral issues, especially among children

“In school, children are classified as having ‘behavioral issues,’ which many times are the result of the child being hungry or worrying about where they will get their next meal,” McAfee-Bryant stated. “We also need to teach people what to do with the food they get. I mean, you can give people food, but if they don’t know what to do with it and how to cook it, it doesn’t really solve anything.”

McAfee-Bryant burst onto the culinary scene in 2014 by winning The Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.” I asked her about that experience and how it’s led to her efforts to start The Prospect Urban Eatery. “It was a very intense atmosphere, and I had just come from Seattle where I saw first-hand this program in action. Seattle’s been doing this for decades, so they’ve learned a thing or two. That was very fresh in my mind when I competed. Winning raised both my profile and confidence that I could get this done in my hometown,” McAfee-Bryant said.

McAfee-Bryant says she still needs another $250,000 to fully fund her vision. She says she’s confident that will happen and is looking forward to the day that vision becomes reality. “What I envision is people coming into our neighborhood and seeing people going to work, people using our park, our garden, our space. I want them to see the positive definition of Prospect,” McAfee-Bryant said.

If you’d like to learn more about, or donate to, The Prospect KC and The Prospect Urban Eatery, you can visit their website at theprospectkc.org.