In the United States 803 counties are classified as "food deserts". These are counties where all the residents are 10 or more miles away from a full-service grocery store. Jon Bailey has studied the rural grocery store system in the United States and has released two reports through the Center for Rural Affairs. He says residents of these counties are forced to leave their communities to purchase food, often at great expense due to great distance. And people in these "food deserts" or with low-access to food face significant economic and health challenges.
Within the study are solutions. Bailey writes, "Rural communities without a grocery store and seeking to develop one have four primary models of ownership open to them: independent retailer, community-owned, cooperative and school-based." He says the characteristics and circumstances of the community and its needs will determine which model will work best. Bailey added that the independent retailer model is the traditional model of ownership of rural grocery stores. However, these are precisely the retailers that are most in danger.
According to Bailey, many believe the future of rural communities are very much in doubt, that the demographic and economic challenges faced by many rural communities are simply too great and deep-seated to overcome. But, Bailey says they believe the future of these communities holds abundant promise if new economic models are encouraged and implemented.