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Nokomis' only grocery store closing is part of a bigger issue

Kroger in Nokomis (Tessa Bentulan - WICS)
Kroger in Nokomis (Tessa Bentulan - WICS)
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Small towns rely on their few stores to get their groceries.

As we've reported, the City of Nokomis is losing its only grocery store, Kroger, which is leaving residents without a place to get healthy food.

Now that the store's doors are closing, residents are going to have to travel farther to get their milk and eggs. That’s not easy for all residents, and the locals are trying to make that known.

“I know that the elderly population in Nokomis is pretty concerned with it closing, just because a lot of them don’t have the means to travel out of town at their leisure,” Nokomis resident Shelby Cole said.

One of those elderly residents is Edith Petska. She lives alone in Nokomis and does not have a car.

"I feel like I’m kind of lost," Petska said. "I don't know, it just feels like nobody cares anymore."

Having a grocery store down the street from her is convenient. Now, Petska is going to have to rely on others to help her get the necessary food from nearby towns.

"Whether you've got grocery stores or doctor’s office or anything, you have to go somewhere else to get it,” Petska said.

The current situation in Nokomis is what some researchers, including Western Illinois University’s Sean Park, call a "food swamp."

“You do have access to food, but the food that you have access to is at the local gas station or the dollar store,” Park said. “What you're getting isn't healthy, fresh foods; it's usually beef jerky or chips or soda."

Park said they've been seeing similar trends like this happen across the Midwest and into the south.

"We usually have a dollar store come in, they take just enough sales that makes the business not able to function anymore, and they close up," Park said.

This is very much a concern for Cole.

“I think a lot of people will not starve to death, but they’ll go hungry maybe for days at a time," Cole said. "They aren’t able to get to food as often."

Other Nokomis residents, like Lance Lehnen, will have to drive to neighboring towns like Pana or Taylorville to get fresh food, which are between 15 miles to 20 miles away.

“I'm not really happy about it because the closest place I can go to get food is about 18 miles away over in Pana,” Lehnen said. “As somebody who comes to the store every day, I’m going to have to learn to change my habits."

A petition was created by Cole to try to convince Kroger to change their minds and keep the location open.

The Kroger in Nokomis will close on Saturday, Jan. 30.

The company said the decision was made after an "extensive evaluation of the store’s financial performance."

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