Wednesday, June 09, 2021

USDA report: Rural and urban non-metro counties saw more dollar stores and fewer grocery stores from 1990 to 2015

Rural residents have faced a host of challenges in accessing groceries, according to a new report about rural food retailing from 1990 to 2015 by the Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service. One issue is the trend of large chain stores replacing small independents. Higher travel costs to access food are another problem, especially for residents in high-poverty areas with shrinking populations. Here are some other findings as of 2015, the most recent data available:

  • 23 U.S. counties were left without any food retailers; all were outside metropolitan areas.
  • 44 counties had no grocery; 40 were rural nonmetro and four were urban non-metro (counties with an urban population of 2,500 or more).
  • 41 non-metro counties had one food retailer and 115 non-metro counties had one grocery.
  • The median non-metro county had 16 food retailers and seven grocery stores.
  • Grocery stores were the most prevalent food retailer in non-metro counties. The next-most prevalent, in order, were convenience stores, specialty food stores, dollar stores, and supercenters.
  • Single-location grocery stores were more prevalent than chain stores, but had lower average sales and employment than chain stores.
And here are some trends over the 25 years covered by the report:
  • Dollar stores and supercenters were the only types of food retailers whose rural numbers increased; the counts of grocery stores and convenience stores peaked in 2009 and have been declining since then, and the number of specialty food stores has been falling since its 2011 peak. 
  • The percentage of rural non-metro counties with fewer than eight food retailers per 10,000 people increased from 11% in 1990 to 27% in 2015. 
  • The number of food retailers per capita decreased by 19 percent in rural non-metro counties.
  • The percentage of rural non-metro counties with no food retailers increased from 1% to 3%.
  • The median number of grocery stores per capita decreased by 40% for rural and urban non-metro counties.

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