Blood reserve's first grocery store, Kainai Marketplace, helping community
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Blood reserve's first grocery store, Kainai Marketplace, helping community

It's lunchtime and a lineup is starting to snake around the deli counter of the Kainai Marketplace, the first grocery store to open on the sprawling Blood reserve in southern Alberta.

But if the wait is annoying the customers, they don't seem to be in a complaining mood.

Band members and residents living near the store in Stand Off say they are relieved to finally have a local grocery store that saves them the long drive to Cardston or Lethbridge to stock up on food and essentials.

The store, a joint venture between the band and the province, had its grand opening last December and has been steadily winning the approval and patronage of band members since.

"It's gained the confidence of the community. A lot of tribal members are supporting it," said Rick Tailfeathers, a spokesperson for Blood Tribe Administration.

Kainai Market's assistant general manager said the store employs around 30 people, mostly band members, up from 24 people when it first opened.

"It's needed here and it provides a lot to the community. It's great for the workers, it gives them somewhere to work locally that they probably wouldn't have had otherwise," George Hillier said.

Hillier said the store has been a success from a health standpoint too, pointing out that many residents, especially those without vehicles, previously had little access to fresh produce, meat and dairy.

Cashier Becky Old Shoes said many residents were previously stranded without access to healthy food.

"A lot of people in the community don’t have transportation. If they hire somebody to bring them to town it's expensive," Old Shoes said.

"We've got pretty well everything they want and the stuff we don't, we write it down and we try and get that in for them."

Loading her groceries into her vehicle outside the store, Paulette Fox said she used to drive into Cardston, Fort Macleod, Pincher Creek or Lethbridge to shop.

"I think it's the greatest thing that's happened. It's been a long time coming and it's great for employment on the reserve," Fox said, adding, "I'd like to see some buffalo meat on the shelf."

The province contributed $1.5 million to the Kainai Marketplace through a pilot project that's now called the Aboriginal Business Investment Fund. Those funds were matched by the Blood Tribe, with the remaining costs for the store secured through financing.

source : Calgary SUN
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