By Eric Payne, NGA Manager of Communications
RF Buche Testifies About Food Insecurity to House Committe
The holiday season is always a busy time for independent grocers, as customers rely on them to supply their Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. And while these demands draw much of our attention, NGA and our members have been advocating over the last two months for several important topics which will benefit independent grocers.
The first of these is food insecurity, which the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines as “… a lack of consistent access to food for an active, healthy life.” This month, NGA member retailer RF Buche, a fourth-generation grocer and president of GF Buche Co., in South Dakota, testified during a roundtable titled “Ending Hunger in America: Food Insecurity in Rural America,” before the House of Representatives Rules Committee.
Buche works to establish grocery stores in communities that lack access to fresh food items, helping to tackle food insecurity. One example of what his company does to achieve this is stocking a travel trailer with healthy foods and essential products for areas where there is little means of transportation. The company is also working to enhance these efforts by partnering with a local non-profit to secure a semi-truck trailer with both frozen and cold storage. Additionally, they also stock food lockers in areas with limited access to grocery products. During the roundtable, Buche also highlighted the GF Buche Co., campaign called Team Buche Cares, which feeds the hungry and helps the local community.
Buche switched gears during his remarks to discuss the difficulties independent operators are having with obtaining high-demand products and how this could negatively impact independents serving rural and low-access communities. NGA separately laid out key antitrust concerns in a statement for the record that was submitted to the committee for the roundtable. The statement focused on how anticompetitive actions from big-box retailers and “power buyers” negatively impacts food access for rural communities, making it difficult for independent grocers to keep their shelves stocked and their doors open. NGA’s latest economic impact study found independent grocers lost ground in many rural and urban areas where food deserts exist. This is in large part due to competitive disadvantages in the marketplace that favor big-box retailers.
This testimony was an important step towards informing Congress about the important work being done by independent grocers like RF and the impact of anticompetitive tactics in our industry. To learn more about NGA’s efforts to end dominant food retailers anti-competitive tactics, visit nationalgrocers.org/antitrust/.
Carlos Castro Visits White House to Discuss Supply Chain Challenges
Todos Supermarket is a 4-store Hispanic grocery chain in Woodbridge, Virginia that opened in 1990 and since then has been a staple in the community, providing quality products and friendly customer service for the growing Hispanic community in the area. The owner of the store is Carlos Castro, a native of San Salvador, El Salvador, where he worked in a factory and lived in poverty during the Salvadoran Civil War. After immigrating to the United States, he worked several jobs in California before moving to Washington D.C., where his first job was scrubbing toilets at a bar. 10 years after arriving in the United States, he opened the first Todos Supermarket in Woodbridge.
Castro not only serves his community, but is a national leader as a member of the NGA Board of Directors, helping guide NGA’s advocacy efforts for more than 21,000 independent community grocers across the country.
Castro recently the White House after receiving an invitation from President Biden to participate in a roundtable about holiday shopping and overcoming supply chain challenges. Supply chain issues have been impacting independent grocers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. NGA President and CEO, Greg Ferrara, recently testified in front of the House Agriculture Committee about the topic. During the testimony, Ferrara focused on three central factors contributing to the supply chain crunch: labor availability, transportation bottlenecks, and as mentioned in the previous story about RF Buche’s testimony – uneven supply due to the rise of power buyers made possible by non-enforcement of antitrust laws such as the Robinson-Patman Act.
During the White House Roundtable, Castro made similar points. He said “Although independents are resilient and our customers can rely on us during the holidays, independent grocers unfortunately continue to face competitive disadvantages when sourcing products in short supply.”
This was an important meeting that underscored the important work being done by independent grocers across the country, the strength of the supply chain heading into Christmas, and the competitive challenges independent grocers face while procuring high-demand products.