Rural Grocers Across The State In Need Of Help

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HAGUE – There could be new hope for North Dakota rural towns dealing with the loss or potential loss of its grocery store.

Just 10 miles from the South Dakota border lies Hague, a town of fewer than 100 people…and those residents rely on the town’s grocery store just like people in any other city do…but the future of this areas store, like so many others across the state, is currently on life support.

“We’ve run out of people, a lot of my good shoppers are in the care center, quite a few are in the cemetery”, said Karen Keller, the Manager of the Hague Grocery store.

The North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives tells me nearly a half dozen stores across the state are up for sale with nearly a dozen in what’s considered a distressed state.

One of those stores is here in Hague, it’s managed and part-owned by Karen Keller, and she tells KX News she’s personally sacrificed, by not cashing her paycheck, to help the store out.

“It’s because there is never enough money in the account to also cash my checks, My co-worker cashes her checks because she has a family and three growing kids and I’ve been there when you need it. We’ve managed to survive without, but it would be nice to have some of that money”, said Keller.

The biggest issue facing small towns groceries, bigger communities like Bismarck, because it’s easy to travel and buy in bulk.

Customers at the store KX News spoke with told us rural grocers are a must have…despite those bigger city stores.

“During the wintertime, if we didn’t have a store here and there’s a big storm and you needed something, you’re out of luck. This store here is a lifesaver because in bad storms you can’t go nowhere if you have to you can walk here and get the things you need until they get the roads open, So during the winter time is most important”, said shopper and resident Joseph Smith.

But there might be some hope…the North Dakota Interim Commerce Committee will study how to improve the system that gets food to rural areas of the state.

The study states that 15% of grocery stores in towns with less than 2,100 people have closed since 2013 and a considerable number of the state’s population drives more than 10 miles to reach a grocery store that offers fresh milk, bread, meat, fruits, and vegetables.

It goes on to say that there is a strong negative correlation between the distance people drive for food and those people’s health.

Keller tells KX News she hasn’t been able to order bread in a year and a half, so she has to get it from a store in Strasburg.

“Bimbo Bakery actually, they quit, but the Strasburg store has been very kind and let us order through them, the only thing is we have to go up and pick it up when it comes in on Monday morning”.

The study also plans on looking at ways help can come from the federal level—it could result in better purchasing and distribution.

It’s all things these small towns hope happens sooner than later.

A rural grocery store in Strasburg, not far from Hague that was up for sale was recently purchased by a group of owners and remains open.

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