New cooperative helps improve rural access to healthy food, other items
A new cooperative is providing rural North Dakotans with improved access to healthy food and other important items. Incorporated on April 19, 2021, Rural Access Distribution Co-op (RAD) is a shared services cooperative serving the people of Walsh County. This summer, the cooperative will launch a food distribution network that unites three small-town grocers; delivers products to two communities without local food access; and aims to improve affordability, variety and convenience for the people who live there. While the primary focus is on wholesale food access, the network could also be used to distribute local produce and meats, or even medication.
“Grocery stores are critical businesses in rural communities. They serve as essential sources of healthy food, they drive local economies, and they provide space for community members to gather and connect,” says RAD Board President Alexander Bata. “In order to be successful, they need access to affordable, wholesale products. That’s where RAD steps in.”
RAD allows grocers in Park River, Hoople and Edinburg to place collective wholesale orders. This collective purchasing increases the total volume ordered, which provides significant savings and more opportunities for variety. Wholesale orders will be delivered to Jim’s SuperValu in Park River, which will serve as a redistribution hub, housing frozen and refrigerated items during the sorting and pre-delivery time period. Each week, a truck, operated by RAD, will deliver items to Hoople and Edinburg.
This redistribution network will also benefit residents living in two communities without grocery stores — Fordville and Adams. Climate-controlled grocery locker systems will be placed in each community, allowing residents to order frozen, refrigerated and shelf-stable products via an online ordering system. These orders will be placed in a locker, and customers will use a unique code to unlock their assigned locker and pick up their items.
The cooperative plans to begin operations in June.
Rural Access Distribution Cooperative (RAD) is a shared services cooperative that provides access to locally retailed and produced products from the region with emphasis on local access to healthy food. Members of the cooperative are Jim’s SuperValu, Park River; Market on Main, Edinburg; Hoople Grocery, Hoople; Adams Community Development Corporation, Adams; and Wells Drinking Well, Fordville. Funding for RAD is provided through a Bush Foundation grant and an anonymous donor. The North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC), the Walsh County Job Development Authority, and Neil Doty and Associates, LLC, provide support to the cooperative.