Accessing nutritious, affordable food can be challenging, especially for rural residents. Many have to travel to other communities to get their groceries, while others rely on convenience stores that often sell more expensive and less nutritious options. The goal, then, becomes getting healthier options to Stanton while maintaining a relatively low cost.
Fortunately, rapidly growing technologies are transforming the marketplace. Also the transforming the marketplace: The recognition that rural markets have largely remained untapped and that they present a huge economic possibility for all kinds of businesses. For Stanton, these parallel developments mean opportunity – both in terms of improving food access in the community and in being a leader in offering the amenities needed to attract and retain talent in a global marketplace.
While a number of options exist to get nutritious food to Stanton, the best return on investment will be seen by installing grocery lockers. Grocery lockers tap into existing online ordering systems, such as Hy-Vee’s, and also require much less investment than a full grocery store. Of course, grocery lockers present significantly lower risk than a full store, too.
In 2015, Hy-Vee launched its Hy-Vee Aisles Online program, which lets customers shop online when and where they want. Consumers simply select the items they want, pay online, and then choose to have the groceries delivered or pick them up at the store.
After the order is placed, an Aisles Online personal shopper selects the items, ensuring freshness and order accuracy. Then, the groceries are kept in climate-controlled totes until they are either picked up or delivered. If an order is over $100, both pick-up and delivery are free; for smaller orders, pick-up is a $2.95 fee, while delivery is a $4.95 fee.
The lockers should be located at a prominent community location. Top spots to consider are the Viking Center and Casey’s. Many Stanton residents already visit these locations, again minimizing hassle for people looking to regain time with their families.
To minimize the risk for the Red Oak Hy-Vee, the store should consider an agreement either with the City of Stanton or another entity that guarantees a certain amount per month. This will ensure that Hy-Vee is able to cover its costs and that Stanton residents receive their orders without interruption. An unscientific survey of residents found that nearly 63 percent would commit to spending more than $100 per month on groceries to guarantee this service; 31 percent would commit to spending over $150. The results of this survey can be found in Appendix I. It is important to note that each order must be over $100 for assure free delivery.
6 Basic Facts About Grocery Lockers:
- They’re high tech.
- They work inside and outside.
- They’re cool – literally.
- They report to property managers.
- Residents love them.
- They can help keep and attract residents.
Adapted from PARCEL Media
The Action Steps
Determine Logistical Details
Stanton community leaders, Red Oak Hy-Vee
Determine cost of acquiring and installing lockers, utility fees, etc. Determine minimum number of customers or minimum weekly spend. Consider how the existing delivery to the Stanton Child Resource Center can play into this and help meet the community minimum. Determine delivery details, assess when a second delivery may be considered, and identify preferred location; work with property owner to develop partnership agreement. Work with City of Stanton to understand any zoning requirements that must be met.
Secure capital for locker system
Stanton community leaders
Work with Red Oak Hy-Vee to understand costs of acquiring, installing, and operating lockers. Develop funding roadmap. Prioritize organizations that focus on addressing food access issues and human health. Place the Iowa West Foundation at the top of the list; healthy families is one of their four focus areas.
Market and launch program
Stanton community leaders, Red Oak Hy-Vee
Create and deploy strategic marketing program to create awareness about lockers. Launch a press release when lockers are installed, celebrating their placement in rural America and the food access they will bring to the community. Host a ribbon cutting and community celebration with a special delivery of ice cream treats.