GROTON — Sue Frady can get some of her groceries by simply crossing Main Street from her home at Schoolhouse Gardens Apartments and going to the new Dollar General store.
She did so Thursday morning, getting milk, bleach and cat litter.
But if she wants fresh meat or produce, she still must travel to Aldi in Cortlandville, she said.
The Dollar General store, which opened last week, has given village residents another place to pop in for groceries, but doesn’t fully meet the need for fresh produce, vegetables and meats, local food advocates said.
Jessamine Stone, the coordinator of the Groton Community Pantry, said she appreciated that the store has a good amount of non-perishables, but it still doesn’t fill the void of providing fresh produce and meats a full on grocery store could.
“They certainly are not meeting the need for fresh produce,” she said. The only fruits and vegetables sold were canned or frozen. Meats were also only frozen or highly processed.
This lack of fresh produce and meats has led to different scenarios for different people, Stone said. Some have changed their diet to suit what is available. People who can travel go to Cortland, Ithaca or Dryden for produce and others come to the food pantry, which is open by pre-registration for two hours each Monday.
The number of people coming to the pantry to meet these needs has quadrupled since she became coordinator in 2018. Back then, the pantry would get about 50 families a week. Now, it’s closer to 200.
She attributed this increase in part to the lack of options but also the erasure of the stigma surrounding pantries.
The Groton Public Library has also been working to fill the void, mostly of fresh food, said Sara Knobel, the library director.
Each Tuesday, the library has its own food giveaway, to about 90 people a week, she said. Food items include milk, bread, a protein, vegetables and dessert.
Knobel, though, had a more positive view on the new Dollar General.
She liked that it was staffed by local residents and that it had frozen vegetables, which she said can be nutritious, but she said it could use more fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Is it the best? No,” she said. “But it’s way better than what we had, which was nothing.”
Knobel said that the library food distributions have been a benefit for those getting food, which more recently has featured working and middle class people laid off due to the pandemic, she said.
To alleviate this issue, Stone said a dedicated market would be required, but getting one in a small village like Groton would be a challenge.
“I think without a store that’s dedicated to being a market, I don’t think you’re going to meet the need,” she said.
Frady said she would be open to having a store in town with fresh produce, but skeptical it could happen as the cost may be too high.
“It would be wonderful if they did, but I doubt it,” she said.