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K-State Today

October 8, 2018

K-State's Rural Grocery Initiative wins community engagement award

Submitted by Chandra Ruthstrom

Kansas State University's Rural Grocery Initiative was named an Exemplary Community Engaged Project by the Engagement Scholarship Consortium at its 2018 national meeting in Minneapolis.

The Exemplary Project Award is one of several awards given by the consortium to recognize campus projects that have made exemplary strides to become more closely and productively engaged with communities through their teaching/learning, discovery and service activities.

Addressing issues of public health, economic development, and rural community sustainability connected to this crisis, Kansas State University's Center for Engagement and Community Development along with K-State Research and Extension, the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development and faculty from agricultural economics launched the Rural Grocery Initiative in 2007. The initiative has worked to identify and promote best business practices for rural grocery stores, increase rural access to healthful foods, and ultimately strengthen the viability of rural communities.

The Rural Grocery Initiative has worked collaboratively with K-State faculty representing 13 different disciplines, store owners and rural citizen leaders to pursue its research and outreach agenda. This national initiative has produced collaborative, multidisciplinary research involving faculty from multiple universities, national food access nonprofits, multiple funders and numerous rural grocery stores. This research has provided important technical assistance and identified innovative strategies for strengthening access to healthy foods. The initiative has spawned service-learning projects involving hundreds of students from a variety of campus departments. Extension professionals from multiple states have incorporated rural grocery issues into their outreach and engagement.

During its 11 years, the Rural Grocery Initiative has facilitated construction of new stores, upgraded older stores, brought healthful food to thousands of Kansans, and increased the understanding of these incredibly important small businesses.

"It is an honor to have K-State's Rural Grocery Initiative recognized by Engagement Scholarship Consortium," said David Procter, director of K-State's Center for Engagement and Community Development. "It is an important acknowledgment that campus/community partnerships built on collaboration and mutual respect and guided by research, teaching, and outreach can achieve sustainable and lasting impacts for both the academy and community partners."