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Rural Grocery Initiative

Rural Grocery Store Funded By Non-Profit Organization

By Amanda Bouc

PLAINS, Kan. - For the residents of Plains, Kan., a ‘quick trip’ to the grocery store is a thing of the past.

Since this rural community’s store closed in 2001, residents have been forced to travel a minimum of 14 miles to purchase food – a 28-mile round trip.

But for this population of fewer than 1,500, the trip to the local grocery is going to get shorter.

The Community Enhancement Foundation of Plains, a non-profit organization developed by five local citizens, is in the process of bringing a grocery store back to the community. The Grand Avenue Market will be among the first grocery stores in the nation to operate using the non-profit model.

Cheryl Rickers, former vice president of the Foundation, explained that in 2008, a group of concerned citizens researched ways to bring a grocery store back to their community, such as requesting a larger grocery chain build in Plains and adopting a cooperative model, but neither idea worked in their town because of its small population.

While the grocery store is the core to the group’s efforts, the Foundation has also considered additional community needs. For instance, Rickers explained there was a growing elderly population in Plains, but Store Funded By Non-Profit Organizationno assisted living or nursing homes, so the group wanted to provide services that promote aging-in-place. Additionally, they hoped to increase nutrition education and healthy eating by developing a community garden and farmer’s market.

That’s when the idea of a non-profit model came into play.

“If we used a non-profit, we could tackle all of these projects in one,” Rickers said. “We wanted to look at the bigger picture.”

The Foundation was formed in 2010, and by January of 2012, had received non-profit status. Funding the endeavor has come from grants and community donations, which has permitted the organization to purchase 12,000 square feet for the store in the Plains business district. With a concrete space, the group is now searching for additional grants to continue funding the construction and development of the site.

President of the Foundation Jeanne Roberts said the organization was amidst the process of applying for the Community Service Tax Credit Program. If approved, donors to the project would receive a 70 percent credit on their Kansas tax return for any donated funds.

Operating under the larger umbrella of the Access to Food Project, the Grand Avenue Market will serve as a Food and Nutrition Center, complete with a demonstration kitchen for teaching nutrition and healthy cooking methods. Adjacent to the educational station will be a certified incubator kitchen, which will allow local citizens to prepare and sell homemade goods in the store.

“We don’t just want a store that is retail, that doesn’t take care of people. We want to provide service beyond the door,” Rickers said.

Services will extend beyond education and business opportunities. Since there is not a pharmacy in Plains, the store will partner with a nearby pharmacy to provide a pick-up service. The Grand Avenue Market will provide a companion shopping program for its customers, including a transportation service, in-store shopping assistance, and aid in helping customers unload groceries into their home.

“If someone needs help, we want to make sure they have it,” Rickers said.

The Foundation will own the Grand Avenue Market, with all profits going into the Foundation’s funds for additional community projects, such as the development of a community garden. Members of the Foundation and local volunteers will operate the store until enough funds have been raised to employ a staff. The group hopes to provide volunteer opportunities for individuals of all ages.

“It (the Community Enhancement Foundation) really looks at the overall picture, not just the business aspect,” Rickers said. “We are here to take care of the community.”

Photo Caption: Businesses on the main street of Plains, Kan.