Discussions to Offer Ideas for Community and Economic Development, Health
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Local groceries typically anchor a rural community’s business district. While some are flourishing, others are struggling – and closing their doors.
The issue is not limited to Kansas, yet Kansas State University is taking a leadership role in helping communities.
Access to a variety of foods is important to nutrition and health, but the loss of a local grocery also is a community and economic development issue, in serving as a gathering place, dependable local employer, and source of sales tax revenue, said David Procter, spokesperson for Kansas State University’s upcoming Rural Grocery Summit III.
The summit, titled: “Strengthening Our Stores. Strengthening Our Communities,” is scheduled June 5-6, at the Hilton Garden Inn Conference Center in Manhattan, Kan.
The conference is the third in a series, and intended to encourage discussion about the realities in losing a local grocery store, share ideas and build on opportunities, Procter said. Sessions will focus on the best practices for operating and sustaining local grocery stores, and community and economic development.
Procter, who is director of K-State’s Center for Engagement and Community Development, was among the first to call attention to the declining number of local grocery stores, and to initiate discussion about the impact of the losses and seek opportunities to reverse the trend.
He will join Kevin Concannon, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, in keynoting the June 5 sessions.
Marci Penner, representing The Kansas Sampler Foundation, will keynote the June 6 session.
Attendees can choose from 15 breakout sessions with topics ranging from funding opportunities for rural grocery stores and models of cooperatives and community-owned stores to customer service, which is considered a competitive advantage for local stores.
The conference will offer inspiring success stories as well, including recovery after a fire that destroyed a store in Onaga, Kan., and the story of Nick Graham, a youthful entrepreneur from Minnesota who invested his college savings in local grocery stores.
Operating a community grocery store as a non-profit or aligning a local store with a school system or other community partner such as a hospital that orders large quantities of food from distributors, is among the scheduled discussions.
“We can learn from each other, and grow together,” said Procter, who said some smaller stores can pool orders to meet distributors’ minimum ($10,000) to ensure deliveries.
Procter said the summit is recommended for grocery store owners, managers, shareholders and others who may be considering opening or operating a local grocery; community and economic development professionals and volunteers; potential funders: government agencies, such as representatives of local Chambers of Commerce, elected officials; food and nutrition professionals and interested citizens.
Registration includes conference materials, refreshment breaks, lunch (June 5) and a reception at the new Flint Hills Discovery Center. The cost to register varies:
* If a grocery store representative, the first registration is complimentary (no charge);
* For additional grocery store representative, registration is $50 per person if before May 22, 2012, or $75 after May 22.
All other registrations are $150 per person by May 22, or $175 after that date.
For information and registration, go to Rural Grocery Initiative or call: 1-800-432-8222 or 785-532-5569 weekdays, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CSDT.
The Hilton Garden Inn Conference Center, 410 S. 3rd St., Manhattan, KS, is offering a conference rate ($104 plus tax) for a limited number of rooms to reservations received before May 4. For reservations and more information, call: 785-532-9116.
Organizers also are offering a pre-conference on FEAST (Food Education Agriculture Solutions Together). FEAST is a community organizing process that allows communities to engage in an informed and facilitated discussion about food, education and agriculture in their community and begin to work toward solutions regarding local food access.
The pre-conference is June 4, from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Registration for the pre-conference is $25.
More information is available at Center for Engagement and Community Development and Rural Grocery Initiative.