Food deserts in rural areas loom

by Daily Editorial Board

A recent University of Minnesota study reveals that 62 percent of rural grocers intend to own their stores for 10 more years or less and that more than 70 percent of them have no plan to appoint a successor once they quit. Naturally, this raises concerns about how to guarantee rural residents’ access to healthy food.
Small grocery stores are oftentimes the only places where rural citizens can shop for produce. For example, of the grocers surveyed, more than one-fourth have customers who travel 30 miles or more to reach them. If their grocery stores close, these people might not have an alternative provider. 
When asked why they intend to leave their businesses, the most common answer rural grocers provided was competition with chain corporations. Other responses included a shortage of working capital, product delivery problems, excessive government regulation and burdensome taxation. 
In order to benefit rural business owners, we encourage the Minnesota government to expand rural broadband and update the state’s transportation infrastructure. These measures align with budget proposals from Gov. Mark Dayton, who proposed spending more than two-thirds of the state’s $900 million budget surplus last week. 
Dayton’s proposed $100 million rural broadband expansion could help connect rural grocers with potential customers, while better roadways could lower grocers’ delivery costs. 
At the same time, we also encourage University researchers to continue their work by examining which regions of Minnesota are most in danger of becoming food deserts and then evaluating potential prevention and solutions.