K-State's Rural Grocery Initiative: Saving Rural America's Critical Infrastructure
Local grocery stores represent a critical infrastructure for our rural communities. These stores are an important part of the economic engine that sustains rural communities, providing essential jobs and taxes. They are a vital source for nutrition and health, providing a supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and protein. These groceries are especially critical for the rural young, poor, and elderly. Grocery stores are also places where we meet friends, catch up on the latest news, build relationships and network with others. Grocery stores, like schools, restaurants, and post offices are a community asset used to recruit and retain citizens, providing a symbol of community health. Unfortunately, it seems every day we hear about another store closing shop and shutting their doors. In Kansas alone, 82 grocery stores in communities of fewer than 2,000 people have closed since 2007.
Because the loss of a grocery store threatens the health of local citizens, the local economy, and the very existence of that rural community, Kansas State University and a broad range of partners are working to assist rural communities and their grocery stores. We have been collecting data on rural grocery stores, identifying and archiving the latest research, and talking with a variety of stakeholders about grocery store challenges and best practices for sustainability.
On June 14-15, 2010, we hosted a rural grocer summit and brought together store owners, policy makers, citizen leaders, funders, and academics to talk with one another about how best to sustain this critical piece of community infrastructure. This newsletter provides a glimpse into the topics and people addressing the rural grocery initiative.