Expanding Healthy Food Access by Strengthening Social Capital
The Rural Grocery Initiative is interested in building community support for rural grocery stores by examining the concept of social capital and its relationship to support for the local grocery store. We hypothesize that social capital positively correlates with community support for local grocery stores. In other words, in communities where strong social capital is present and where the local grocery store is identified as a builder of social capital, strong support for the grocery store will be present.
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This study explores social capital as an indicator of community support for grocery stores and as a strategy for those businesses to strengthen patronage for their food retail operation. Social capital consists of relational behaviors of trust, obligation, reciprocity, and solidarity. The results of these behaviors have the potential to enhance a community's social, civic, and/or economic well-being - in this instance, nutritional well-being.
Examining four rural low to moderate income (LMI) communities, this study will: (1) measure the community’s overall social capital, (2) assess the local grocery store’s strategies for building social capital, (3) create an overall community social capital index, and (4) correlatethat social capital index with local support for the grocery store. An inventory of social capital strategies will be generated.
Kansas State University's Rural Grocery Initiative (RGI) conducted a study exploring rural grocery stores' relationship with its local community, also known as its social capital. The study sought to answer the questions, "How is the local grocery store integrated into the community?" and "What difference does it make if the local grocery store is connected to the life of the community?"
This study anticipated that the more connected the local grocery store is to the community, the more the community will patronize the store; and the higher the community's own social capital, the more likely the community will patronize the local grocery store.
Key findings from the study were that:
- Survey respondents who have higher levels of trust, who feel that they are part of the community, or who have a sense of community pride shop more frequently at the local grocery store.
- Survey respondents who feel that the town is welcoming to newcomers or who believe that local leadership has a vision for the community shop more frequently at the local grocery store.
- As survey respondents' income or education decreases, the likelihood that they spend the majority of their grocery dollars at the local grocery store increases.
Kolia Souza, Dr. David Procter, Ph.D, Rial Carver, Spencer Clark, Ph.D