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More than 80 people from across Kansas attended the first Rural Grocers Summit June 1 in Inman, where they traded ideas on preserving rural business, small towns and the nutritional health of their inhabitants.
“This was the first meeting of its kind in the United States,” said David Procter, director of Kansas State University’s Center for Engagement and Community Development.
The center organized the meeting with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development, the Kansas Sampler Foundation, the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development and K-State's department of agricultural economics.
“Small grocery stores are in crisis,” said Marci Penner, director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation in Inman. “We have to respond with urgency, out-of-the-box solutions and a collective voice. Keeping grocery stores open is parallel to sustaining rural communities.”
Store owners, food distributors, business developers, educators, concerned citizens, and representatives of local, state, and federal government came to Inman to address the challenges facing rural grocers.
In addition to providing a networking opportunity, the summit unveiled a Web site at http://www.ruralgrocery.org and created a steering committee that will lead participants toward solutions for such problems as high distribution fees, declining population and commuter customers.
Ideas that came out the summit included establishing additional re-distribution centers for the southwest and northwest parts of the state and creating a buy local campaign for rural groceries, Procter said.
Judy Olson, who owns Circleville Market in Jackson County, said the meeting
was important “because it's nice to know that we’re not alone dealing with these problems.”