MANDAN — Here’s some good news for North Dakota’s struggling rural grocery stores.

An ongoing pilot program was recently awarded a $120,000 grant from an anonymous donor.

The North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC) said the money will go toward the study, in the form of refrigerated food lockers as well as a distribution truck.

The study is needed as North Dakota continues to lose its rural grocers at an alarming rate.

Currently, just 97 are still open. Of those, 16 are in need of financial help.

“To have an opportunity to try a pilot project that can demonstrate how we can perhaps improve our regional purchasing power and perhaps improve our variety and price and perhaps bring food access to towns that don’t have food access and I think for someone to invest in this is very significant,” said Lori Capouch with the NDAREC.

The organization hopes to purchase the food lockers and a truck by the middle of this year.