Closure of hundreds of Family Dollar stores creates big concerns for rural North Carolina

Sean Coffey Image
Thursday, March 14, 2024
Family Dollar closing stores cause concerns in food deserts
A major announcement impacting one of the country's largest discount store chains could bring serious ripple effects to rural North Carolinians

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A major announcement impacting one of the country's largest discount store chains could bring serious ripple effects to rural North Carolinians.

On Wednesday, Dollar Tree announced it would close hundreds of Family Dollar stores across the country -- 600 in the next few months, then 370 more over the next several years.

According to those fighting food insecurity, those stores serve a vital function in more rural parts of North Carolina.

"It's a lifeline to these communities where they actually have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and food in an affordable manner," said Will Kornegay, Founder & CEO of Ripe for Revival.

Ripe for Revival -- a spinoff of Kornegay's farm and produce company, Ripe Revival -- provides fresh groceries on the go for thousands of North Carolinians in food deserts. Based in Eastern North Carolina, Kornegay knows the impact of food availability in places like Nash and Edgecombe counties.

Dollar Tree announced that it will be closing 1,000 stores over the next several years.

"In these counties where there may only be a Family Dollar or a Dollar Tree or a local gas station, you know, these stores carry fresh produce," he said.

Kornegay said access to produce and fresh protein can have a large impact on health outcomes, too.

"Families are forced to buy all of their meals in their groceries from gas stations, they get access to chips and fried food and things that really do not empower or enable them to have a healthier lifestyle," he said.

It's a situation that impacts more North Carolinians than you might think. According to the North Carolina Journal of Medicine, 1.6 million people statewide live in food deserts, which often leads to an increased risk of food insecurity. In Wake County, where food deserts are much less common than in rural areas, an estimated 10-percent of the population is food insecure.

Amid the announcement of the Family Dollar closures, Kornegay believes the areas his non-profit serves the most will be the hardest hit.

"Statistically in the US, one in eight are food insecure; they may not know where their next meal may come from," he said. "These food deserts in eastern North Carolina are averaging closer to one in six. So it shows you statistically what the difference is from rural to more urban areas across the country."

ABC11 reached out to Dollar Tree, who wouldn't provide additional information on which stores they plan to close in and around the Triangle. In response to ABC11's inquiry, a spokesperson said in part:

"Family Dollar and Dollar Tree stores are important to thousands of communities across this country. We owe it to those we serve to position all of the stores for success and meet the expectations of our valued customers and associates."