Brookshire Grocery Company will be closing its Denton store on July 23 due to declining sales, forcing local shoppers to shop at other grocery stores around Denton.
UNT educational psychology professor Dr. Darrell Hull said that he was “disappointed” upon hearing that the store would close. Hull said that he will now shop at Kroger, nearly 15 minutes away from where he lives near Teasley Lane.
“I frequently go to Brookshire’s when I need something,” Hull said. “It’s a family-oriented operation that seems to have everything you need and it’s convenient.”
The closing of Brookshire’s comes after other local grocery stores that have closed in recent years including Sack & Save, Piggly Wiggly and The Cupboard. Areas with no produce stores in sight has raised concerns over food deserts in Denton.
Food deserts are “areas vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods,” according to the American Nutrition Association. Recent campus advancements at UNT in combination with grocery store closings have caused parts of Denton to qualify as food deserts.
At Large Place 5 Denton city council member Deb Armintor posted about the news on Facebook, asking for suggestions from the community on ways to make food more accessible. Armintor said that food deserts in Denton are a multi-pronged issue that has been “brewing for years.”
“There are a number of different theories about why grocery stores close, why they don’t do business,” Armintor said. “One that I hear that is a nationwide issue has to do with these Walmarts.”
According to a report about Walmart’s effect on smaller supermarkets, Walmart takes up at least 70 percent of all grocery market sales in the nation.
While there are no concrete details regarding why grocery stores in Denton experience declining sales, Armintor said that it might have to take a tax incentive to encourage grocery store companies to replace closed stores in Denton’s barren areas.
Armintor also said in her Facebook post that she “requested data and a staff report assessing our options to address Denton’s ‘food deserts,’ and exploring what other cities have done to address theirs.”
Denton’s food deserts not only affect how families eat, but also how college students eat. Data from a food desert GIS map created by the Green Leaf Environmental Planning project manager Vicki Oppenheim shows that a majority of areas in Denton are more than a mile away from a supermarket, including the UNT campus.
When creating the GIS map, Oppenheim said that it is “striking” how most grocery stores in Denton are located along highways. This makes a trip to the grocery store nearly impossible for residents that do not own cars.
“I know from our USDA grant applications in the past that downtown and southeast Denton are low-income, low access areas for healthy food within half a mile,” Oppenheim said. “The closure of Brookshire’s only exacerbates the situation.”
Two things that have provided access to healthy foods and will help lessen the impact of food deserts are mobile food pantries and farmers’ markets.
The Denton Hunger Coalition sponsors a mobile food pantry every first Saturday of the month and one of the local pantries that is a member of the Coalition is the Denton Community Food Center.
The Denton Community Food Center chair Tom Newell said that the food center will relocate from its downtown location to a low-income area that is a food desert this fall.
“DCFC’s mission is to provide food from a central storehouse to needy families and individuals struggling with food insecurity,” Newell said. “We anticipate a slightly increased demand from families in the desert area.”
The Denton Community Market also serves a variety of produce and farm products to low-income individuals that receive government assistance such as SNAP and WIC.
Due to the “highly competitive” grocery industry, Newell said he predicts that small, neighborhood grocery stores will continue to close.
Featured Image: Brookshire’s in Denton, Texas on July 9, 2019. The store is set to close permanently on July 23rd. Photo by Kara Dry