Twenty-Five municipalities have put in place a moratorium on new dollar store openings. The reason? Lawmakers including Georgia’s Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, who is a county commissioner, are pointing to data that correlates the growth of dollar stores, the lack of healthy food choices and food deserts. Her 2019 resolution for the moratorium was easily passed by the commission and includes a comprehensive evaluation on small box retailers – dollar stores, c-stores and independent grocers whose stores are less than 16,000 square feet – and their effects on the health, safety, obesity levels, food availability, food quality, land value and welfare of residents. DeKalb county is not alone. Kansas City, Tulsa, Mesquite Texas, Cleveland, Fort Worth, Oklahoma City and New Orleans have all put in place similar efforts and moratoriums on growth. Across these communities one common denominator is that these stores are predominately in low income mostly Black neighborhoods.
According to a report just released this past January by the Institute for Local Self Reliance, these and other cities across the nation are approving new policies that tie local regulations to broader public goals that not only limit the expansion of dollar stores but also put limits on chain retailers with the intention of creating better alternatives for their populations especially in the categories of fresh meats, fruits and vegetables. In all fairness what we have seen over the past couple of years is Dollar General adding produce departments – right now the number is a little more than 2,000 produce departments but the company has published its goal to bring that to 10,000 over the next few years. Impressive – but that’s only about half of their stores – what about the rest?