PHOTO: Dale Huncovsky (pictured) and his wife, Laverna, own and operate the Cuba Cash Store in Cuba, Kan. The small store anchors the community and is known for its fresh meats and customer service. They also supply a local restaurant called Two Doors Down and run a catering business to strengthen the base for the community’s grocery store.
Kansas is a top crop and livestock producer, yet many in the state have difficulty accessing food.
The issue affects urban and rural residents and impacts quality of life, community health, and the local economy, said David Procter, director of Kansas State University’s Center for Engagement and Community Development.
The center draws on university resources and K-State Research and Extension to meet the needs of Kansans; for example, it was the primary organizer for a series of grocery conferences. The most recent, “Strengthening Our Stores, Strengthening Our Communities,” attracted 175 participants from 14 states.
Conference goals include sharing ideas, identifying resources, and encouraging dialog among communities seeking access to food. Consider these examples:
• After losing its grocery store three years ago, Minneola residents organized a community corporation and sold shares ($50 each) to raise $200,000 to reopen a grocery store. The low share price allowed residents to take pride in ownership, and more than 200 volunteers helped renovate the building before the Home Town Market opened March 7, 2012.
Lonnie Patrick, store manager and butcher, selects fresh meats for the store.
“Sales are averaging $18,000 to $20,000 per month,” said Patrick, who noted that the store includes a deli with daily specials. “We’ve placed chairs by a window so customers can enjoy fresh-cooked foods and catch up on the local news.”
• In Wyandotte County, a virtual store is poised to improve access to food for low-income residents without the transportation they need to the nearest grocery store five miles away.
Online services also should improve community health, said Bruce Chladny, director for K-State Research and Extension – Wyandotte County.
Grant funds from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Local Initiative Support Corporation allowed K-State to hire Linda Quinn, a community organizer and advocate. She and Chladny enrolled in a class to learn how to write the business plan for the project, and she pitched the plan to county commissioners to secure$42,000 for the 2013 trial.
Quinn partnered with a local grocer and negotiated discounted fees for online purchase and delivery. The goal of the pilot is to prove to prospective store developers that there is a need for nutritious food in the community.
• Residents in Plains have been without a grocery store for a decade. Now they are moving forward to improve access to food, provide nutrition education, and facilitate aging in place. Inspiration for the idea came from K-State’s 2010 grocery conference, when Faye Minium from Morland offered a session on establishing a community foundation to reopen a grocery store.
Plains’ representatives followed up by forming the Community Enhancement Foundation of Plains and identifying their first project as an “Access to Food and Nutrition Education Center.” They also applied for Internal Revenue Service status as a 501(c)(3) corporation, which was granted in January 2012.
The nonprofit status will allow the foundation to seek donations and apply for grant funding, such as a recent $25,000 grant from State Farm Insurance, to make the new center a reality, said Cheryl Rickers,foundation vice president.
For more information, visit www.ruralgrocery.org.
David Procter, 785-532-6868, firstname.lastname@example.org
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