Rural Grocery Initiative (RGI)
Phone: (785) 532-6868
Purpose of the Collaboration:
RGI was initiated in 2006 to address the rapid and steady decrease of local grocery stores throughout rural America. RGI is a community/institution initiative that combines the resources of multiple university departments and centers, nonprofits, rural grocery stores, and government agencies. RGI works to identify and develop new models of community capacity building, promote rural business development and sustainability, and enhance food security in rural areas. A variety of action research has followed from the establishment of RGI, including mapping food distribution networks to creating an Internet food brokerage system, developing "buy local" education campaigns, and building an extensive web presence. RGI has proved 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. For demonstrating "principles of good practice," RGI was awarded the 2010 Outstanding Program Award at the Community Development Society International Annual Conference.
Length of Partnership:
More than 200 rural grocery stores; Kansas Sampler Foundation; Kansas Rural Center; Center for Rural Affairs; USDA Rural Development; Kansas Department of Commerce; Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development
RGI provides intellectual property to owners and stakeholders. Evaluations indicate evidence-based information resources regarding best business practices and healthy food promotions are useful. As one grocery store owner reported, “I learned about challenges and options from RGI. I will now take a different approach to re-establish healthy food access in my community by looking at food hubs, partnering with locally-owned convenience stores and possibly delivery services.” RGI creates virtual and face-to-face networking spaces. They are followed by hundreds of people on Twitter and have nearly one thousand followers on RGI’s Facebook page. RGI also hosts a national rural grocery summit every two years and it is attended by hundreds of participants representing nearly every state in the U.S. Rural grocery owners are co-producers of knowledge. Owners and other rural grocery stakeholders routinely present at the summits. RGI has increased rural availability of healthful foods. RGI has been directly involved in opening new stores, renovating older stores, and expanding produce selections in existing grocery stores. Areas in Kansas that were once food deserts are now providing healthful foods. As an executive director of a rural community-based non-profit states, “the work of RGI is determined by looking at the needs of communities and melding those things with the expertise the university can offer. For these very small towns to have the collaborative support of our land-grant university is an amazing gift.”
Center for Engagement and Community Development; Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, K-State Research and Extension; A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications; Departments of Agriculture Economics, Communication Studies, Marketing, Landscape Architecture/Regional and Community Planning, Horticulture, Agricultural Communications, Human Nutrition, and Sociology
The RGI has generated community-engaged scholarship, peer-reviewed journal articles and conference presentation, it has secured millions of dollars in extramural funding and it has resulted in outreach across Kansas through knowledge dissemination. Additionally, K-State Research and Extension has used the RGI to focus some of its nutrition education. As a result of this 11-year scholarly effort, the RGI is now recognized as a national leader for rural grocery business practices and rural healthy food access.