As Rural Groceries Fade Away, Lawmakers Wonder Whether to Act

"Nancy McCloud did not have any food industry bona fides. She had never worked in a grocery store; not even a restaurant. And yet three years ago, when her local grocery in central New Mexico closed, she wanted to offer the community (population: 863) the fresh foods they otherwise would have to travel 47 miles to get.

Mountainair, New Mexico, is a popular tourist stop because of its proximity to 17th century ruins that harken to the earliest contact between Pueblo Indians and Spanish colonials. It’s known as the “gateway to ancient cities.” But without a grocery store, McCloud feared Mountainair might become another relic of the past.

“When you have a small rural town and the grocery store dies, the town dries up and it just blows away,” said McCloud, who revived B Street Market in 2017 and became its owner. “There are six towns east of here — they just lost the grocery store, then they lost the gas station, and then they lost the bank and now they’re nothing.”
“In order to have food in some of our communities, it’s coming on the backs of our people,” Capouch said.

All the while, rural communities are sparsely populated and aging. “So from a state’s perspective, there’s only so much we can do,” Beadle said. “We’re not looking at having state-owned groceries.”

Capouch floated lots of ideas: Rural grocery stores could distribute like Amazon, or work with the U.S. Postal Service to develop a more affordable distribution system. Or they could partner with the state for distribution by working with the Emergency Preparedness and Response Section of the North Dakota Department of Health.

The committee discussed state partnerships briefly, “but I don’t know if we’re going to go that route,” Beadle said. For now, the committee will do more fact finding. "

Read more at: