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Central Topeka Grocery Oasis is getting the ball rolling on a long needed neighborhood essential

Topeka is hopefully getting another grocery store soon. That is, if it can get past the planning phase. 

Topeka is hopefully getting another grocery store soon. That is, if it can get past the planning phase. 

The Central Topeka Grocery Oasis group hopes to bring equity and social justice while reducing the cost and effort of procuring food for those often denied those essentials.


These are very lofty and aspirational goals. We hope they are able to be successful and we wish them well. Another grocery store is certainly needed in the area and it’s focus on equity and social justice brings a needed element to the neighborhood.


The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Keishera Lately reports although the Central Topeka Grocery Oasis group last month signed a lease with GraceMed Capitol Health Clinic for one acre north of the clinic at S.W. 12th and Washburn, efforts to launch a grocery store in the neighborhood are still in very preliminary stages.


CTGO chair, Marge Ahrens said the group anticipates hiring a project director within the month, who will help them find a grocer as they will need to build a new building.​

Ahrens mentioned the group has been looking for a grocer who can help meet their needs for more than five years. Project leaders aren't sure if an independent or chain grocer will be placed on the newly leased land, but they aim for it to be an environmentally friendly store, with the building powered by geothermal energy.

This will be more than a grocery store, it’s anticipated that this will be a community hub offering postal and banking services to the area for those who don’t have access to a vehicle. We know how important a community hub can be in rural areas, this is no different in an urban setting. A community hub allows people to connect, to get help and resources and stay in touch with the community they live in. Who wouldn’t want something like this to be successful?


Additionally Lately reports the group already was awarded $95,000 from the Topeka Community Foundation for essential startup monies in 2022. Additionally, on Nov. 15, the group received $628,00 in American Recovery Plan Act funds to purchase "sustainable refrigeration equipment" for the building. But more funds will be needed. Fundraising for the new grocery store will be a combination of donations from the community, grants and other sources.


We’re hoping more forward progress can be made on this project, because in the meantime there is a scarcity of resources and certainly an opportunity for change.


Food Insecurity in the Sunflower State

Lease agreement
signed for
Central Topeka grocery site

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GraceMed Health and Central Topeka Grocery Oasis Group at the signing of the Ground Lease Agreement on March 16, 2023. CTGO is working to build a new grocery store immediately north of the clinic on the vacant lot at the corner of 12th and Washburn. Pictured are Venus Lee CEO of GraceMed and Board Members along with Marge Ahrens, Clark Trammell, ShaMecha Sims, James Munson, Ann Marshall, Timothy Leffert, and Michael Bell, additional CTGO members are; Janet Cathcart, Pastor Harry Christian, Marc Galbraith, and Mary Thomas. 

An agreement has been signed for GraceMed Capitol Health Clinic to lease one acre of land at 12th and Washburn streets north of GraceMed’s clinic to the Central Topeka Grocery Oasis (CTGO) Group as a building site to restore a grocery to residents of Central Topeka. The formal lease signing was at 10:30 a.m., Thursday, March 16, 2023 at the GraceMed clinic, 1400 S.W. Huntoon.


"Our grassroots efforts for a grocery have gathered hardworking partners in the city, county and state focused on equity, justice and health for our neighbors,” said Marge Ahrens, CTGO chair. “We are grateful to GraceMed Health, and all who share in our celebration of the ability to build a community store on this excellent Central Topeka site. We will need many hands and hearts to fulfill this mission.”


Venus Lee, GraceMed CEO, said GraceMed is excited to finalize the partnership. “Our goal has always been to impact the communities we serve positively,” she said. “For many years this neighborhood has been a food desert, without access to nutritious food, which is needed to achieve optimal health. For this reason, it has been vital for us to support CTGO in its quest to be an answer to this problem. GraceMed is excited to finalize this partnership, which will be a critical step in healing the community. We pray that as this partnership grows, we will be able to develop a food voucher program for our patients, allowing them to embrace healthier eating habits. We strongly believe a grocery store in this neighborhood will significantly improve the lives of those here. I sincerely thank CTGO for their continued dedication to this shared vision.”


The grocery is intended to be a meeting place for residents and provide healthy food as well as needed banking, postal and utility payment services, all within walking distance for many. Employees of nearby businesses, hospitals, churches, schools, Washburn University, and workers in transit also would be served.


$628,000 ARPA Grant to the CTGO Group

The Topeka community and region continues to generously support the CTGO Group to make the dream of a new community grocery store become a reality. The largest grant to date was awarded Nov. 15, 2022, when the City of Topeka designated federal American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds in the amount of $628,000 to the CTGO Group to purchase economically- and environmentally-sustainable refrigeration equipment for the building. Earlier the CTGO Group was awarded a $12,500 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. The Dakota Worldwide market study it enabled, supports the development of a new grocery store at a one-acre site just north of GraceMed’s Capitol City Clinic. The Topeka Community Foundation awarded CTGO $95,000 in early 2022 for essential start up monies. The Sunflower Foundation also awarded a discretionary grant of $10,000 in 2022 that enables CTGO to fund a broad scope of work.

The Central Topeka Grocery Oasis (CTGO) Group had a great time getting the word out on our store project at Robinson Middle School's Meet the Teacher Night, Aug. 24, 2022 . Two of our board members, ShaMecha King Simms and James Monson, (shown above), staffed the table while Principal Tim Leffert, who also is a board member, was busy greeting families. The CTGO Group was present at another community event at Robinson Nov. 2, 2022. Janet Cathcart, the CTGO Group secretary overseeing the table, and Leffert, reported that the event was busy and provided a lot of exposure for the grocery oasis group. About 270 people attended and Jackie Keller, program coordinator for the Kansas Rural Center, brought local food to share.

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Robinson Middle School's Meet the Teacher Night
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