IJERPH, Vol. 15, Pages 2773: Healthy Food Options at Dollar Discount Stores Are Equivalent in Quality and Lower in Price Compared to Grocery Stores: An Examination in Las Vegas, NV (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)
Food deserts indicate limited access to and affordability of healthy foods. One potential mediator is the availability of healthy food in non-traditional outlets such as dollar-discount stores, stores selling produce at the fixed $1 price. The purpose of this study was to compare availability, quality, price differences in ‘healthier’ versus ‘regular’ food choices, price per each food item, and description score in dollar-discount stores to grocery stores in Las Vegas using the NEMS-S; a protocol consisting of three subscores—availability, quality, price of healthier versus regular food, and a description score. A 25% sample of grocery stores (n = 40) and all dollar-discount stores (n = 14) were evaluated. t-tests showed that dollar-discount stores were less likely to price healthy options lower than their unhealthy alternatives (mean (M) = 1.0 vs. M = 2.5; p < 0.001) and had reduced availability (M = 20.50 vs. M = 23.80; p < 0.001) compared to grocery stores. The quality of produce did not differ (M = 5.93 vs. M = 6.00; p = 0.34). Price comparisons revealed that 84.2% of produce and 89.5% of other food items were significantly less expensive at the dollar-discount stores, with only two items being more expensive. While dollar-discount stores did have lower availability, they provided quality fresh and healthy foods which were usually less expensive. Findings indicate that dollar discount stores may be an existing community asset, and considering them as such may aid in efforts to strengthen the overall food system. Practitioners should consider dollar discount stores when assessing the community food environment and designing and implementing outreach programs, as they may bridge some disparities in access.