Stephan Bisaha / KMUW

CLEARWATER — Brad Mize has spent his life in the grocery business, like his parents and brothers.

And he still remembers something his father, Nolan, told him years ago.

"My dad always told us if we was going to get rich, we would have quit long time ago," Mize said. "But, you know, it's in our blood, and it's just all we do.

"It's kind of like a farmer. They farm every day and not making any money, but they still farm. So the grocery business is the same way."

Deborah Shaar / KMUW

Valley Center’s only independent grocery store, Leeker’s Family Foods, closed this weekend. The store was not only a place to buy food, but it also served as a community hub for the past 50 years.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

A small Kansas town's effort to replace its lone grocery store is getting a big boost from the federal government.

A $780,000 Community Economic Development Grant will pay about a quarter of the cost of bringing a new grocery store, pharmacy and gas station to St. John, a town of about 1,300 people in Stafford County.

The Hutchinson News reports the award makes officials hopeful they could break ground on the $3 million project this year.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

A brick building that was the only grocery store in St. John sits vacant, its glass doors covered with paper since it closed early last year.

St. John is the county seat of Stafford County in south-central Kansas — but it’s home to fewer than 1,300 people.

Now, the closest grocery store is 12 miles away, in Stafford.

St. John resident Amy Collins said that means meals and shopping require more effort.

“Now when we make a trip to the grocery store we are planning four, five … six days out in advance, so you have to be much more efficient,” she said.

Rachel Andrew / flickr Creative Commons

Eight rural communities across Kansas will share $120,000 in grants over the next year to find ways to improve access to fresh produce.

Many rural grocery stores have closed, or are struggling to survive. In St. John, Kansas, the only grocery in town closed last year. Now the nearest full-service food store is 29 miles away.

The Sunflower Foundation is issuing the grants to St. John and other communities to help them figure out how to foster local access to fresh food.