Rural grocery stores play a unique and critical role in their communities. At their most basic, they provide access to food – especially to seniors, those with limited mobility, and low-income residents. But they also play an important social role and spur economic development.
Through OFB’s biennial Hunger Factors survey, OFB became aware that emergency food pantries are often the best and sometimes the only food source in some areas. Low-income citizens cannot benefit from SNAP and WIC if there is no store within a reasonable driving distance, or if the only store has very limited inventory. Oregon is home to many areas with very limited food access and the survival and success of these stores is necessary to ensure food security for rural communities.
The State of Rural Grocery Stores in Oregon
Many rural grocery stores are struggling to keep their doors open.
If suppliers are willing to deliver to the more remote locations – and not all are – added fuel surcharges or large minimum purchase requirements are burdensome. Small store owners have low purchase volumes, which result in high per unit costs and slim profit margins. Rural stores face little difficulty in having beer, soda, chips or candy delivered, but often have to drive to town if they want bread, milk or produce. Without adequate refrigerator space and with fewer customers, stocking fresh produce is difficult for most and impossible for some. Unlike big box or chain stores that have a vast network of business support, many independent rural grocery stores explain that they are “on their own” and have little opportunity to collaborate with other store owners.
Yet despite all of these challenges, there are rural grocery stores in remote locations that are not only surviving, but also thriving. The owners of the Maupin Market – new to the grocery store business – sought out advice and suggestions from other rural grocery store owners throughout the state. They explain that this support was crucial in the success of their store. Other stores find success through sharing ideas or concerns with nearby store owners and collaborating on orders to fulfill minimum purchase requirements or to achieve price points. Successful store owners have an acute awareness of customer needs and desires and provide services, such as SNAP and WIC, which are valuable to their community.
Sustaining Rural Communities Report
Sustaining Rural Communities presents findings based on 70+ rural grocery store owner surveys that were completed as part of Oregon Food Bank’s Community Food Assessment project. Like other parts of the country, many rural grocery stores in Oregon face challenges in keeping their business running. This report tells the story of rural grocery stores – their challenges and successes – in the hope that other organizations will join in supporting our rural grocery stores.
Sustaining Rural Communities
A report on grocery stores in rural Oregon.
Read the report.
Resources for Supporters:
Resources for Owners:
StateGreens for Green, Finding Public Health for Healthy Food Retail
, ChangeLab SolutionsFruitful Collaboration: Funding to Promote Fruits and Vegetables in Food Retail Stores
, Change Lab Solutions
For any questions about Oregon Food Bank’s work with Rural Grocery stores, please contact Spencer Masterson.