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Fourth-generation grocer testifies on South Dakota food insecurity to congressional committee

About 40% of the families living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation experience food insecurity according to the American Journal of Public Health.

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RF Buche is a fourth-generation grocer and president of South Dakota-based GF Buche Co. Submitted photo

WAGNER — A South Dakota man is taking his experience with food insecurity to the national stage.

RF Buche, fourth-generation grocer and president of South Dakota-based GF Buche Co., met with congressional leaders on Dec. 14 to speak with members of the House Rules Committee about efforts to tackle food insecurity in the United States.

Buche testified as part of a series of roundtable discussions called “Ending Hunger in America: Food Insecurity in Rural America.”

His appearance came in the 12th meeting of the series, which is highlighting the reality of food insecurity in America and examining the steps that Congress and the Biden administration can take to combat it.

Specifically, Buche discussed his company’s efforts to deliver food staples and other necessary products to remote places across the state with a semi, including reservation communities such as Pine Ridge.

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“We would go out to the districts with the small communities on the reservations and sit there for a half a day, or a day, or a week or a couple of days a month and have that food available for those customers that don't have any transportation,” Buche said. “This will definitely fill a void but it certainly doesn't leave much for variety and choices for the people.”

Another project that could fill that void, Buche said, would be installing temperature-controlled lockers. Residents could order their groceries online, and they would be placed in the lockers for pickup in their own community.

“We can store anything from frozen vegetables to fresh vegetables to canned vegetables,” Buche said. “It’s a place people can get to and walk to within those communities.”

The food lockers are currently planned to be installed at a community center in Marty, which is 16 miles away from the closest grocery store. Buche intends to have the food lockers installed and operational in the first quarter 2022.

“We are super excited to be rolling that out," Buche said, "because I think this is something that could potentially work, not just in small communities within the reservations, but I think it could work in small town America.”

In addition, Buche emphasized the need for Congress to enforce antitrust laws that ensure customers have the same access to products as dollar chains and big box stores.

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“During the pandemic, our wholesaler was forced to restrict allocations on certain products,” Buche said. “And that puts great stress on our rural communities.”

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RF Buche stands with Gov. Kristi Noem after a business meeting on Oct. 2, 2018. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor

Committee chairperson Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, heard from Buche and others on what efforts are being done to combat rural food security and expressed the committee’s desire to make sure the right assistance gets to the right people.

“Our stores are on or near reservations all across South Dakota, where the need for fresh, quality foods is the greatest,” Buche said. “Finding new ways to serve and support our reservation communities has always been near and dear to my heart.”

About 40% of the families living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation experience food insecurity according to the American Journal of Public Health.

“Getting access to better food for our friends and neighbors there is truly a public health goal,” Buche said.

The entire Dec. 14 meeting of the House Rules Committee is available on Youtube .

Related Topics: FOOD
A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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