Grant Will help Rural Nebraska Grocery Stores Survive

Grant Will help Rural Nebraska Grocery Stores Survive

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has received a grant that could help rural Nebraska communities retain their grocery stores.

The award, one of 17 Heartland Challenge Grants awarded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, will support a team of Nebraska Extension educators to address rural business transfer opportunities of local grocery stores by providing education on models of shared business ownership, including business cooperatives.

“Rural grocers, and their communities, are under tremendous pressure to maintain their businesses and provide ready food access for their customers” said Marilyn Schlake, a Nebraska Extension educator with Rural Prosperity Nebraska and UNL’s department of agricultural economics. “We are excited for this opportunity to work in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation and community leaders to create tools that can be used by other communities faced with limited access to vital community businesses.”

The Nebraska team will work with at least eight rural grocery store owners and their communities. The goal is to ensure that vital businesses such as rural grocery stores can remain open, or reopen through multi-owner or community ownership, even after a longtime owner retires or decides to move on.

“Entrepreneurship represents an opportunity for this region to reverse a decades-long trend of economic decline,” said Melissa Roberts Chapman, senior program officer in entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. “Creating more equitable ecosystems, revitalizing rural communities and accelerating IP-driven business creation are three things we can do to ensure that starting a business in the Heartland isn’t harder than it has to be. In fact, the only way we can regain momentum in the cities and rural areas of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas, is to work together to meet the challenges ahead of us.”

The extension team awarded the grant is part of Rural Prosperity Nebraska, a new initiative founded by UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2020 to support Nebraska’s rural communities’ efforts to grow and thrive. Rural Prosperity Nebraska brings together Nebraska Extension educators, students, faculty and community leaders from across the state to address challenges and identify opportunities for growth.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to increase opportunities that allow all people to learn, to take risks, and to own their success. The Kauffman Foundation is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and uses its $2 billion in assets to collaboratively help people be self-sufficient, productive citizens. For more information, visit