Partnerships Discussed to Improve Regional Food Distribution System
by Lauren Swirbul
Breakout session participants discussed ways to improve the regional food distribution systems for rural grocery stores. Several issues were identified as the most important to be addressed and acted upon to help sustain rural grocery stores in Kansas.
The group discussed grocery stores and their ability to consistently meet the minimum weekly order requirement set by a distributor. The group felt that this was the primary barrier to sustaining stores. In response to this problem the group came up with several solutions. They decided it would be beneficial for grocery stores to form partnerships in order to meet minimum orders, and have consistent deliveries. In order for the store to meet their customer needs, the group agreed that stores must have full access to a variety of products and brands that are available. Another problem the group discussed is the frequency of deliveries to retailers. Perishables are one of the most important products due to the high demand from customers and they need to be delivered often. Unfortunately, perishables are not delivered often enough to rural stores. The frequency of delivery would significantly improve the quality of product available to customers.
However, the retailers would face the issue of having to pay an additional cost for products being delivered more often. Educating grocery stores on how the distribution centers obtain their products and assisting stores in exploring all products available in their areas will help minimize the cost of increased deliveries.
The final concern the participants discussed was the ability to incorporate local foods and Kansas products into the regional distribution system. Although it is easier to ship processed products, the customer desires quality. There is a challenge for small grocers to obtain local sources and farmer's fresh products. The group advises producers to know what the buyer wants and what products are readily available.