Discount retail chain Dollar General announced Tuesday (Aug. 2) a new initiative in Little Rock to provide fresh fruits and vegetables at 10 of its area stores. The effort is a partnership with the city of Little Rock, Fifty for the Future, and the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce to address food deserts in parts of the capital city.
Dollar General said it estimates the move will increase access to fresh, healthy produce to 200,000 Little Rock residents.
“At Dollar General, we are committed to investing in the well-being of the communities we call home,” said Jeff Owen, Dollar General’s chief operating officer. “We understand many Little Rock residents rely on DG to provide access to convenient, affordable, and nutritious foods. We are excited to invest and expand availability of fresh produce to the city as part of our ongoing commitment to increase access to healthier foods in towns across America.”
The 10 stores are:
4748 Springer Boulevard
3124 West Roosevelt Road
7501 Mablevale Cutoff Road
15616 Alexander Road
14600 Arch Street Pike
3500 John Barrow Road
12626 Lawson Road
5023 Baseline Road
4701 West 65 Street
9125 Stagecoach Road
The 10 Little Rock stores with produce will offer the top 20 items typically sold in traditional grocery stores and approximately 80 percent of produce categories carried by most grocery stores, including fresh fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, apples, strawberries, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lemons, limes, and salad mixes. In addition, each Dollar General store carries other components of a healthier diet, including milk and dairy products, bread, frozen and canned vegetables, canned fruits, and grains.
Talks for the nutritious food options began in 2020.
“We were particularly focused on a replacement for the vacant former grocery store on 12th Street,” said Fifty for the Future committee chair Hugh McDonald, former CEO of Entergy Arkansas. “Our team, consisting of the Fifty committee and Grant Tennille representing Mayor Frank Scott’s office, 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.”
During the same time, the Little Rock Regional Chamber and North Little Rock officials were working with Dollar General on a new perishable distribution center in the greater Little Rock area. Through conversations, the company agreed to pilot a program to remodel stores to increase affordable food accessibility and partner with the community to help build demand and education on healthier food options.
“That’s what made Dollar General’s plan so attractive to us – they have existing stores located right in the middle of many of these food deserts and already had a program in place to add a significant grocery component to many of their stores,” said Fifty for the Future committee member Schawnee Hightower of Verizon Wireless. “We’re very pleased Dollar General chose Little Rock as their first market for a large-scale pilot.”
Access to healthier food is a significant issue for the state of Arkansas. Currently, every county in the state has at least one USDA-defined food desert according to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement. Additionally, Feeding America estimates that one in three children in Arkansas are facing food insecurity, according to its 2021 report The Impact of Coronavirus on Food Insecurity.