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    Food City, Local Product Co-op Team on In-store Pilot

    Small food manufacturers are gaining space on the shelves at one Food City store to prove their local appeal.

    Customers at a Kingsport, Tenn. Food City store can purchase barbecue sauce, salad dressings, and other products from towns across Tennessee under a new pilot program K-VA-T is conducting with its partner the Jubilee Project, a cooperative based in Sneedville, Tenn.

    In the single-unit pilot test, eight regional entrepreneurs who are members of the co-op have a display of their products up in the Kingsport store.

    Tom Hembree, svp, marketing for Abingdon, Va.-based K-VA-T Food Stores Inc., parent of the Food City chain, said he hopes to expand the program to Food City stores in Sevier County by spring to catch the tourist season there. If the program catches on, he said it may grow to include other K-VA-T stores and that eventually the grocer could warehouse the items it sells. "Their biggest problem is distribution, especially (being) in Sneedville," he said.

    According to its Web site, Jubilee has a vision "to assist in the empowerment of people in Hancock County ... especially those with the greatest needs." It said it works with farmers throughout northeast and east Tennessee.

    Steve Hodges, Jubilee's executive director, said the products sold in the pilot display at the Kingsport Food City are from users of a small commercial kitchen that Jubilee rents. "It's for people who want to rent food-processing space by the hour," he said. The kitchen operation helps lower overhead for entrepreneurs.

    The co-op is a non-profit group of small producers acting as one, meaning that Food City deals with only one contact instead of multiple ones. Jubilee restocks the display as often as once a week. "It's done okay considering the way the economy and food prices have gone," Hodges said.

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