Good Food News - Fighting Dollar Stores
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance reports on how North Tulsa Oklahoma is getting the community engaged in fighting for fresh food equality. The predominantly African American part of the city does not have a single, full-service grocery store, making it a food desert. A dollar store is, therefore, their best and often the only option for buying groceries. Most dollar stores have no fresh vegetables, fruits, or meats yet they are now feeding more Americans than Whole Foods and are multiplying rapidly.
The consequences of this economic marginalization have been severe. “There has been a documented 14-year life expectancy gap between North Tulsa and South Tulsa,” points out City Council Member Vanessa Hall-Harper, who grew up in the neighborhood.
Last April, after more than a year of rallying community members, marshaling legal research, and steadily chipping away at the opposition, Hall-Harper finally convinced the City Council to enact one of the first ordinances in the country to specifically target dollar stores, limiting their development on Tulsa’s north side and thus encouraging the growth of full-service grocery stores.
Both locally and nationally this has marked a new era of political inclusion, community organization, and grassroots power for the African American residents. This has also inspired other cities and towns to take steps to check their spread. In rural America, small-town local grocery stores, which have anchored their economies for generations, are fast becoming as rare as they are in North Tulsa.
Community engagement is working to block the spread of dollar stores and fostering the growth of local grocers so that cities and towns can begin to close the gap in access to fresh food while also building local power and opportunity.