MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Monday, community leaders, Shelby County commissioners and state lawmakers demanded a detailed investigation and assistance to Family Dollar workers and customers, as all area stores are closed indefinitely.
Their pleas came following an inspection that found a rodent infestation and other unsanitary conditions at a West Memphis, Arkansas, Family Dollar distribution facility.
Officials are urging caution of any items purchased since January 1 at any Mid-South Family Dollar store, including human food, pet food, dietary supplements and over the counter medications.
Rep. G.A. Hardaway Monday asked the Tennessee Department of Health and other state agencies to investigate Family Dollar's business practices.
Hardaway also wants the Tennessee Department of Labor to consider emergency unemployment assistance and the Tennessee Department of Human Services to provide emergency food assistance for Family Dollar customers forced to toss out recent purchases.
"The immediate needs of food, the immediate needs of replacing items these individuals have bought and are now completely useless, even worse they could be potentially contaminated," Rep. Hardaway said.
The Memphis branch of the NAACP is also hopeful to offer food assistance in the coming weeks, after they secure grant dollars.
They are also hopeful churches and food pantries also step up their efforts.
The indefinite closure of Family Dollar stores especially impacts seniors without a car living in food deserts in Memphis, where access to full service grocery stores are rare.
That includes North Memphis.
"People around here shop at Family Dollar all the time and it's going to be real bad," Mitza Williams said.
"Means a lot because that's the only place we have if we run out of stuff we need," John Wilson added.
Both live on Breedlove Street and it's an uncertain and unsettling time for their basic needs.
"I hope they do something to help us, if we run out, we don't have nowhere else to go," Wilson said.
Their primary option for food and supplies is the Family Dollar on Jackson Avenue.
Last summer, the area's only grocery store closed and despite efforts by city leaders, no grocery store has returned to the area since.
"It's really bad that we are already on food stamps and we are trying to make it from day and it's really sad," Williams added, who is on a fixed income and had to throw out $150 of Family Dollar food purchases this past weekend.
"It was really sad when i found that out because there was so much food I had to throw out and it disgusted me," she added.
It's unclear when the Family Dollar in North Memphis and other areas of the Mid-South will reopen.