NPR: Rural grocery stores are dying. Here’s how some small towns are trying to save them

EXCERPT: “In many rural towns, a grocery store is a thing of the past, as more of these small businesses fold. Yet entrepreneurs and community initiatives are working to turn that trend around. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 76 counties nationwide are without a single grocery store, and 34 of those counties are in the Midwest and Great Plains. The loss of these stores means decreased access to healthy foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables — and more of the kind of packaged, highly processed foods you find at convenience stores. It’s also a loss of a community gathering space, where neighbors can connect. Thriving businesses used to be commonplace in these farm-focused communities. Today it’s rare. Rural communities have been losing population for decades making it harder for businesses to stay afloat, says Rial Carver, program leader for the Rural Grocery Initiative at Kansas State University. ‘So as small towns get smaller, that means fewer sales coming in the door for our grocery store,’ Carver says. Big box stores and grocery consolidation have added even more pressure on local grocers. A recent USDA report shows the percentage of grocery sales from the nation’s top 20 retailers more than doubled from 1990 to 2020, while the consolidation was more pronounced in rural areas.” FULL STORY: