The Central Topeka Grocery Oasis (CTGO), a group of neighbors organized a year-and-a-half ago to reestablish a full-service grocery store in Central Topeka, is proud and excited to announce that it has been awarded a grant to commission a market study on the needs in Central Topeka that then can be marketed to potential grocers. The CTGO, along with the Greater Topeka Partnership, held a check presentation ceremony to mark the awarding of the grant at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, October 7, 2019, at the GraceMed Health Clinic, 1400 SW Huntoon. The GraceMed location is noteworthy because it used to house the Dillon’s store that closed in February 2016 which made Central Topeka a food desert with food insecurity issues and led to the formation of the CTGO. The grant, which is for $12,500 awarded through the Kansas Health Foundation, will enable a market study focused on the nine neighborhoods identified as most directly impacted by the February 2016 closing of the Dillon’s grocery store at SW Huntoon and Lane Streets. The nine neighborhoods are Tennessee Town, Central Park, Chesney Park, Old Town, Historic Holiday Park, Historic Old Town, Quinton Heights-Steele, Monroe and Elmhurst. There had been a grocery store presence at SW Huntoon and Lane Streets going back to the first half of the 20th century (Dibble’s followed by Dillon’s in 1976). The completed market study then can be used to attract potential grocers to the area. The funds must be expended by April 1, 2020. In the absence of a convenient full-service grocery store, many Central Topeka residents essentially live without access to fresh and healthy food. In that situation, it is presumed households may frequently turn to food retailers offering mostly processed food with less than desirable nutritional content. The market feasibility study will identify full-service grocery store models which can provide fresh and healthy food to the residents of this area. The Greater Topeka Partnership (GTP) will serve as the fiscal sponsor for the grant. The GTP serves as the umbrella agency of eight distinct efforts that support the enhancement of economic development and quality of life in Topeka and Shawnee County including the Greater Topeka Chamber, GO Topeka, 712 Innovations, Momentum 2022; Downtown Topeka, Inc.; Visit Topeka, Inc.; Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development, and Forge Young Professionals. During the past 18 months the CTGO has met with and engaged area residents, City of Topeka policy and decision makers, the Shawnee County Health Department, local and state nonprofits, and other individuals and entities to achieve its mission. The CTGO is committed to a full-service grocery store and not a pop-up/kiosk store that wouldn’t offer a full complement of healthy foods and might not respect the low- to moderate-income individuals and families that inhabit the center of our city through not accepting WIC and SNAP. And the CTGO seeks the creation of a full-service grocery store that provides more than just food to its customers; like check cashing, bill payment, money order, postal, and pharmacy services; just as the former Dillon’s provided. The CTGO also believes that its efforts can be replicated in other areas of our city as there are multiple food deserts that cover 60 percent of the city’s geography (including the recent closure of the Mike’s IGA in the Oakland neighborhood).
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