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Because of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, some grocery stores are changing their delivery methods.


“Many small town grocery stores are adjusting their operations during this pandemic,” said David Procter, director of the Center for Engagement and Community Development at Kansas State University, in a release.


Procter has studied the importance of grocery stores to rural communities.


Procter noted the grocery store in rural communities is often a barometer of the economy in small towns.


“As the grocery store goes, so goes the local economy,” he said in a release. “If you have small-town grocery stores that at this point in time are struggling, it has to have a ripple economic effect on other small businesses in that community.”


Procter said many rural communities are going to great lengths to keep their stores open. Many of them are offering delivery or curbside pickup services, which they had not offered prior to the pandemic. Smith Market in Hutchinson started delivery as soon as the stay-in-place order hit.


Chris Barnes, the owner, said he will keep doing delivery after COVID-19 passes.


“And some grocery stores are spearheading food giveaways,” Procter said. “There are these things called ‘Blessing Boxes’ where people provide food — not only the grocery store — and residents can provide extra food or products that people need, and others can come and pick those up for free.”


Some small grocery stores, he added, are exploring online ordering.


“One good thing that could come out of the other side of this is we have a grocery store infrastructure that is going to be more conducive to folks who maybe can’t physically get to the store,” Procter said. “I think there are going to be more options for people to access groceries in a variety of ways that maybe they didn’t have before all of this happened.”


People are wanting to stay close to town and avoid bigger cities. Restaurants in Pratt and Arlington started selling groceries in their stores.


“I also think that folks are increasingly recognizing the importance of having some kind of food access in their community,” Proctor said. “I would not be surprised once this situation has improved that there is an increased push among some rural communities to establish local access to groceries and healthy food.”