A summit is planned for next month to discuss the growing number of Kansas groceries closing their doors and talk about ways to sustain those that remain.


A summit is planned for next month to discuss the growing number of Kansas groceries closing their doors and talk about ways to sustain those that remain.
Kansas State University’s Center for Engagement and Community Development is sponsoring the event, which is planned for June 14 and 15 at the Manhattan school’s Alumni Center. The event aims to bring together store owners, community leaders, researchers, policymakers, suppliers and funders.
David Procter, the director of the center, said 51 percent of Kansas’ 675 cities and towns do not have a grocery store. Since 2007, 82 of the 213 grocery stores in Kansas communities of less than 2,500 have closed their doors, Procter said.
Topics that will be discussed include bringing more local foods into communities; building community support for local grocery outlets; identifying sources of funding for rural grocery stores; addressing labor issues in rural communities; and recognizing that food is a critical feature of rural culture.
Procter, who is the author of two books on community building, said rural grocery stores are more than just a local business; they are a vital part of rural America’s infrastructure.
“Rural grocery stores provide an important source of jobs and taxes,” Procter said in a news release. “They provide a source of healthy food and they are a symbol of community vitality. Unfortunately, these business cornerstones are disappearing at an alarming rate, along with their rural community homes.”
Speakers will include Procter as well as Kansas State president Kirk Schulz and April Mason, the university’s provost and senior vice president. Organizers also have arranged from Rick Mills, from Walsh, Colo., to talk about how his town of 650 saved its grocery store.
The summit is open to the public. Registration is free to rural grocery store owners and $100 for all other participants.