News Features 

Rural Grocery Initiative Receives Outstanding Program Award

K-State Engagement E-News, Fall 2010 (PDF)

Esther Otis (left) leads participants in a breakout session at the 2010 Rural Grocery Store Summit.

Esther Otis (left) leads participants in a breakout session at the 2010 
Rural Grocery Store Summit.

Rural communities around the state are experiencing difficulties in sustaining their local grocery stores. The Center for Engagement and Community Development (CECD) at Kansas State University started the Rural Grocery Store Initiative to strengthen rural communities and their stores. On July 27, 2010, at the Community Development Society International Annual Conference, CECD was recognized with the 2010 Outstanding Program Award for its efforts surrounding the initiative. This prestigious award was given to the initiative because it demonstrated "principles of good practice."

According to K-State Extension Assistant, Becky O'Donnell, the award will bring greater awareness to the initiative, which in turn will benefit the rural grocery stores.

The Rural Grocery Store Initiative is vital in helping sustain rural communities in Kansas. If the community has the desire to open and maintain a grocery store, the initiative can help strengthen the success of the business.

The initiative works to show the importance of rural grocery stores supporting rural communities. The grocery stores provide a sense of community. They are a place to meet friends, catch up on local news, maintain relationships, and network.

Several significant outcomes the initiative was recognized for include two rural grocery summits, an online forum for grocery store owners, and a website dedicated to informing the public about the work surrounding the initiative.

This past summer CECD hosted the Rural Grocery Store Summit II. The conference brought together grocers, distributors, funders, citizen leaders, academic researchers and policy makers to discuss the disappearances of rural grocery stores across America. Store owners were not sure how to help their stores survive or succeed. The summit gave them the opportunity to learn from other store owners about their struggles and success. In addition, it showed the importance of partnerships between businesses. The summit provided an ideal way for participants to brainstorm, network, and share experiences and ideas.

"It was a nice match between encouraging dialogue, bringing people together, and facilitating with a structure that promoted a civil exchange of ideas," O'Donnell said.

CECD promotes the involvement of community members in the initiative and the support of their local stores through the annual summit.

In addition to the summit, K-State is assisting communities and stores by collecting data, researching, surveying, and talking to residents whose local stores are disappearing.

CECD will continue to host summits and dialogues to increase awareness about the extinction of rural grocery stores and the devastating impact it has on rural communities.