The village of Cody, Nebraska (population 149) hasn’t had a grocery store in more than a decade. Located just minutes from the South Dakota border, in a county larger than the state of Connecticut, residents have to drive 76 miles roundtrip to find basic necessities.
But all that is about to change. After three years building the foundation – both literally and figuratively - Cody will have groceries again. But there’s a twist. Circle C Market will be a student-run, community-owned enterprise.
It’s a great story. This beautiful video from Nebraska Loves Our Public Schools explains how students, teachers and their community made it happen:
The Center for Rural Affairs proudly played a part in this rural success story.
In the spring of 2009, students and teachers at Cody-Kilgore High School contacted Kathie Starkweather, Director of the Rural Opportunities and Stewardship Program, and their idea grew into a solid plan: a student business incubator with a grocery store as the flagship business. Starkweather then helped the community obtain a USDA Rural Development grant.
Over the next year and a half, Starkweather and the Center worked with project leaders to provide guidance and technical assistance, as well as point them towards other resources for success.
Starkweather recalled, “I remember having a focus group meeting and one of my favorite people, an older woman in the community, gave me a huge hug and said, ‘you know, this is about more than the grocery store. It’s about the entire community.'"
She said it was persistence, belief in their youth and what they could accomplish, and pulling together as a community is what led to a successful outcome -- which can now serve as a model for other small towns.
“It was an honor and a privilege getting to work with the teachers, students and community members on this project and the friendships I made in Cody will last forever,” said Starkweather.
Cody calls itself "The Town Too Tough to Die" -- and with the opening of Circle C Market, we see exactly why.
Read more about the Center’s research and advocacy for rural grocery stores and food security and models that work: http://files.cfra.org/pdf/rural-grocery-ownership-models.pdf).
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