Roundup: Gas Station Pizza

Making dough on rural pizza • The "death" of rural music • Fighting hunger • Band affected by rural roots • Des Moines sues counties over water quality • Decline in rural fishermen in Alaska

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Pizza joints are everywhere in a city. Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Papa John’s, and local places seem to be more plentiful than Starbucks. But get out into the country and your options are limited. Hunt Brothers Pizza’s business model is to fill these service area gaps with peperoni and hot cheese. Going where stand-alone food joints couldn’t make it, Hunt Brothers is setting up shop where people already go: Service stations and convenience stores. There are now around 7,200 Hunt Brothers locations. The beauty of the model is the easy set up for business owners, reports the AP.

In a typical Hunt Brothers arrangement, [convenience store owner Roy] Bruce said he paid about $10,000 for his oven, freezer, display case and other equipment and now just pays the Nashville, Tenn.-based company for the pizza ingredients. Hunt Brothers doesn't charge franchise fees or require a contract.

The privately owned company fine-tuned this approach starting in the early 1990s when four brothers who'd worked separately in the restaurant industry joined forces to sell pizzas to convenience stores. Hunt Brothers had 750 locations by 1994, said Keith Solsvig, its vice president for marketing.

"Convenience stores in rural areas were the hub," Solsvig said. "A lot of people coming and going. And a lot of these smaller towns, they didn't really have a lot of other restaurants or other places to eat."

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Robert Crumb, famous collector of records and drawer of dirty pictures, claims that America lost “authentic rural music” in the early 1930s as the jazz age shifted to swing. The interview, published by the Red Bull Music Academy, focuses on vernacular music and shows off Crumb’s encyclopedic knowledge of turn-of-the-century rural music.

With jazz and other pop forms it takes a sharp nosedive in the early 1930s. When it goes from the “jazz age” to the swing era – Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, they get those smoother sounding “sophisticated” sounds. Everyone was supposed to sound sophisticated as an alternative to sounding naïve and country. “Country” was such a term of contempt. It sounds like you’re a hick from the sticks. You’re supposed to be embarrassed by that. It was the death of real, authentic rural music. Truly a cultural disaster.

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The USDA announced plans to create a Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center to take on hunger in rural America. The center, which will be based at the University of Kentucky, will give grants to organizations working on rural hunger and nutrition. The USDA estimates that around 85% of counties in persistent poverty are rural.

“The center will make it possible for children in rural areas to access much-needed nutrition assistance and help close the large food insecurity gap between urban and rural communities,” [U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack said.

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The members of the Columbus, Ohio, band Pace of Glaciers credit their rural upbringings, which forced them to create their own fun, for their interest in music and the style of music they play. The band says their songs are “dark-indie written for night drives through small towns.” 

“When I was really little, I used to be into skateboarding, and we moved (to Johnstown) and there’s no concrete, all gravel roads. So I had to find something else to do,” said guitarist Ryan Conley, who picked up the guitar at 12 years old.

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The city of Des Moines, Iowa, is suing three upstream counties over water quality, and the counties are calling for a retaliatory boycott of the city. Des Moines claims the water they’re getting contains too high a percentage of nitrates, which comes from fertilizer and manure on hog and turkey farms upstream, and the counties aren’t doing enough to reduce those levels. The rural counties say the lawsuit is a slap in the face.

Des Moines is the state's largest city, and contains a host of shopping areas and tourist attractions. Greater Des Moines Partnership CEO Jay Byers said many people living in Des Moines come from smaller Iowa towns, so driving a schism isn't beneficial.

"All of us need to take the emotion out of the issue," said Byers, a native of tiny Meriden in Northwest Iowa. "Calling for boycotts, I don't think gets anyone anywhere."

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In Alaska, fishermen from rural areas are getting rare and old. The University of Alaska Fairbanks project, Alaska’s Next Generation of Fishermen, looks at the decline in young fishermen from rural parts of the state. The report finds that young people are getting into fishing as a career, but they’re mostly not from rural areas. Early evidence says that obstacles of entering the business and the lack of advancing once in it are likely causes of the decline.

 

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