Just two corporations, Dollar General and Dollar Tree (which also owns Family Dollar), operate more than 35,000 stores across the country. A limited but growing body of research finds dollar stores offer limited healthy food options and play an especially prominent role in food environments in the South and Midwest regions and in rural communities, Black and Latine communities, and communities with limited financial resources. Media coverage of dollar stores focuses on the low nutritional value of foods available, the stores’ interaction with poverty and race, competition with other food retailers, and the increasing number of local policies to prevent dollar stores’ spread. In fact, more than 50 communities have passed policies to ban, limit, or improve new dollar stores in their localities.
Notably, policies to date have only focused on new dollar stores. Critically (and perhaps most importantly), additional policy, corporate, and research solutions are necessary to improve the healthfulness of the existing 35,000 dollar stores across the country, including through the recommendations outlined in CSPI’s recent report. Policymakers, corporations, and researchers should leverage the ubiquity of dollar stores to improve healthy food access nationwide.