Dollar General on Tuesday said it would start selling fresh produce at 10 of its stores in Little Rock, Ark., increasing access to fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods where it was previously hard to find.
The move aligns with a food insecurity initiative announced by the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based discounter last year in which it said it wanted as many as 10,000 of its stores to eventually carry fresh produce. The grocer also donated $1 million to the Feeding America organization at the time.
Since then, Dollar General has added fresh produce at about 2,300 stores nationwide, the retailer said, with plans to offer it in 3,000 stores by the end of 2022.
In Little Rock, the Dollar General stores will carry the top 20 produce items sold in traditional grocery stores, including tomatoes, onions, apples, strawberries, potatoes, sweet potatoes and salad mix. Stores also carry milk and other items, as well as frozen vegetables.
In 2020, a non-profit group in Little Rock formed a committee to discuss how to deal with limited access to fresh food in the area, including a replacement for a now-vacant grocery store.
“We were quickly told by various grocery chains in the market that they weren’t interested in filling that space, as it didn’t make economic sense,” a member of the committee said in a statement.
After talking with city officials, Dollar General agreed to launch a pilot program to remodel its stores to increase access to fresh food options for area residents.
“We’re proud to serve Little Rock with expanded access to fresh and healthier food options, particularly in areas where grocers and other retailers have chosen not to invest,” said Steve Brophy, Dollar General’s VP of public policy and government affairs, in a statement. “We look forward to a long-term relationship and future conversations with the city and its leaders on ways we can positively impact healthier communities together."
Around the country, retailers and local officials are working to ease the problems of food deserts.
In Chicago last month, ownership group Yellow Banana, which operates eight Save A Lot stores in the area, received a $13.5 million community investment grant from the city to upgrade its stores in underserved communities on the city’s South and West Sides.