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North Dakota Rural Electric Cooperative Foundation expands efforts to improve rural food access

The North Dakota Rural Electric Cooperative Foundation is expanding its efforts to improve rural food access. This spring, the foundation will lead a feasibility study to explore the benefits of a nonprofit warehousing system, which would serve a 75-mile radius around Minot. The project emerges as the number of rural grocery stores in the state continues to decline, amid the mounting hurdle to compete with big-box stores and large franchises.

“North Dakota is really lacking in warehouse capacity, especially in rural areas. Warehouses tend to be one of the most ignored elements of infrastructure and logistics, but they are fundamentally important,” says Lori Capouch, rural development director, North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives. “Our overall goal is to help rural businesses improve sales volume, attain lower wholesale prices and gain greater access to suppliers. A successful warehousing system could enhance access to quality products and improve variety for people living in rural areas, and create a distribution channel for locally produced foods.”

Information gleaned from the study will be used to engage partners in the future development of a warehousing system. Anticipated partners include grocery stores, local food producers, food banks and other entities that purchase wholesale food.

Crossroads Community Advisors will conduct the study. From April 1 to Oct. 1, representatives will be contacting entities that purchase wholesale foods or produce local foods to gather information for the study. Information will be presented collectively, and individual data will remain confidential. Entities that purchase wholesale foods and local food producers who wish to participate in the study can contact Neil Doty, Crossroads Community Advisors, 701-238-6169.

The foundation has organized a steering committee to lead this effort, which includes representatives from the following organizations: City of Minot, FARRMS, Great Plains Food Bank, MHA Nation, Minot Area Chamber Economic Development Corporation, North Dakota Department of Commerce, North Dakota Department of Health, North Dakota Local Foods Development Alliance, North Dakota Farmers Union, North Dakota Grocers Association, North Dakota Rural Electric Cooperative Foundation, Souris Basin Planning Council, South Dakota Value Added Agriculture Development Center, Strengthen ND, United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development, United States Postal Service and Verendrye Electric Cooperative

The North Dakota Rural Electric Cooperatives Foundation, a public charity, was created to expand the ability of North Dakota’s electric cooperatives to offer technical assistance in rural areas. Its mission is to provide resources to empower communities to pursue opportunities, address challenges and bring dreams to reality.