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  • Writer's pictureDavid Curtin

Can you name these two companies?

Here’s a trivia question: What type of retail establishment opened 1,800 new locations in the U.S. in 2019 (accounting for 65% of all new brick and mortar stores) and feeds more people than many of the country’s largest grocery chains?

Believe it or not, dollar stores are a big business that’s growing even bigger -- but while they offer easy access to everyday goods, that convenience comes at a price, putting the economies (and health) of the urban and rural communities they serve at risk.

So what’s so bad about discounted canned goods, paper products, and toys? The answer isn’t in what they do sell, but what they don’t: fresh foods. With a smaller, less perishable inventory to manage and fewer employees needed to stock shelves, stores are inexpensive to run.

In some communities, especially low-income neighborhoods, this has meant the loss of independent and even big-chain grocery stores that can't afford to lose business.

What’s more, it’s meant the loss of sources of healthy, nourishing produce in “food deserts,” where residents already may have unreliable transportation or other obstacles to getting to the grocery store.

But startups like grocery delivery app Food Forest are taking a different approach to the problem of access -- one that gives shoppers the ability to enjoy healthy, local foods, regardless of location or income.

With two free weekly restocks, Food Forest brings fresh meat, produce and more to neighborhoods throughout Cincinnati. And by accepting EBT as payment, they’ve further reduced the barriers to healthy food.

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