More than two months after Smith River's only grocery store closed, representatives of the Building Healthy Communities Initiative are leading a push to re-establish a reliable food stream in the community.
Meanwhile Mark Wall, general manager of the Redwood Coast Transit Board, said his staff is trying to remind Smith River residents that a route links the community with grocery stores in Crescent City. He said his staff may also take a survey of passengers on the route to see if people are using the bus more often because Ray's Food Place closed.
"What we really needed to do right now is to get the word out a little bit better about the availability of service," said Wall, adding that the Redwood Coast Transit Authority Board discussed the supermarket's closure at its August meeting.
"We actually have a pretty good level of service out there," said Wall. "The only thing I think could be better would probably be to encourage people who are elderly or disabled to ask for route deviations where the bus can go off the route to get to their door."
CandK Market closed its Ray's Food Place store in Smith River on Aug. 4, citing declining sales and increased retail competition. The Brookings, Ore.-based company had closed the Ray's Food Place in Crescent City in February.
In late July, company representatives met with Smith River residents who kicked around several ideas for opening another food store in the building vacated by Ray's. Ideas included establishing a cooperative.
CandK Market representatives said they wouldn't prevent another supermarket from coming into the vacant building. The company also owns the building that houses Smith River's post office.
The closest grocery stores are in Crescent City and Brookings, which are 12-13 miles from Smith River.
Since the store closed, Building Healthy Communities has put two of its staff members to work collaborating with local stakeholders, including county officials, the Wild Rivers Foundation, Rural Human Services and representatives of the Smith River Rancheria, to figure out what exactly is needed in the community.
That effort is in the beginning stages, said Angie Schwab, who is working part-time with Building Healthy Communities.
"We're talking to grocery store owners, but we certainly haven't gotten to everyone yet," Schwab said. "Some of them will look at business development, some people want to talk about the strategy around healthy food. We're trying to understand what the most strategic action (is) for the community to take with this issue and develop ideas."
Schwab is working with Angela Glore, who started work at Building Healthy Communities as a food systems analyst Sept. 1. Glore, whose background is in anthropology and the archeology of food as well as organic farming, said she was hired to work with the Community Food Council as well as with local community gardens. She is also organizing this year's Food Day event on Oct. 24.
In addition to her other duties, Glore said she is trying to meet with folks at the rancheria and at Smith River Baptist Church, which has organized a shuttle to Crescent City supermarkets. Glore said she and Schwab may also get in touch with CandK Market representatives and anyone who is trying to get another market in the vacant building.
"We're still mostly asking questions," she said. "About who all the players are, and what they're doing. Somebody told me the Baptist Church is running a shuttle, but we don't know how often or if they're getting people taking them up on it."
Glore said it's too soon to tell what the community needs.
"Obviously the greatest thing would be if a full-scale market was back in that community, but we don't even know if that is a reasonable goal yet," she said. "It's a reasonable goal for the people who live there, that's for sure. But we just don't know enough yet to say if that's something that is achievable."
For people needing public transportation to get from Smith River to Crescent City, the earliest southbound bus heads to town at 6:53 a.m., Wall said. The bus gets into Crescent City at 7:30. There's a one-hour window until the next northbound bus leaves at 8:30 a.m., he said.
In rural areas, Redwood Coast Transit buses can deviate up to three-quarters of a mile off the route to riders home. For more information on the local transit system, visit www.redwoodcoasttransit.org.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.