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Bridging the Great Health Divide: small stores are a big source of food in rural areas of the Ozarks

Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 10:27 PM CST
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THORNFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Living off the beaten path often means going without, especially when it comes to goods and services. One man is trying to make a big difference by bringing a source of food to his small town.

“There used to be a little store like this in every small town,” said David Siefker.

There aren’t many nearby grocery stores for people in Ozark County to shop at.

“You’ve got to drive 11 miles one way just to go get gas or groceries or anything,” he said.

It’s why he opened The Little North Fork Country Store just off State Highway 95 in Thornfield, Missouri. The building sat empty for three years.

“For them to just stop here and get a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk or butter, just anything. If they’re running low on stuff well you’re here,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a good portion of people living in rural areas have limited access to food.

“It’s going to be a real boon to our little community,” said Joanne Knapp.

She says she travels more than 20 miles to another town to get groceries.

“A lot of different things that we might forget, I can pick it up here. It’s been the real buzz in the neighborhood,” said Knapp.

Cole Suter lives in a nearby town that’s even smaller than Thornfield.

“It’s a huge help. We can stop and get things for the family. It’s pretty important for everybody around here,” he said.

The store is just getting started. It has staples like grains and canned vegetables. Siefker is hoping to expand. He says he’s working to accept SNAP Benefits and will soon offer fresh fruits and vegetables under federal guidelines. Siefker says he’s trying to get more goods on his shelves.

“Let’s say you live in Thornfield Missouri. They say where in the heck is that at? They don’t want to talk to you. If I want Frito Lay products I call this 800 number and UPS brings them. They ship them. You don’t ever see a salesman,” he explained.

The Little North Fork Country Store also offers hot meal options. They’re serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner with plans to expand the business to include a restaurant in the near future.

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