Communities: Baldwin Park, CA, Louisville, KY, King County/Seattle, WA, Watsonville/Pajaro Valley, CA
In low income communities that lack supermarkets, families often depend on corner/convenience stores for food. Corner stores are also a frequent destination for children, many of whom stop daily on the way to and from school. Unfortunately, the choices at these stores are often limited to highly processed packaged foods and offer very little, if any, fresh produce. One of the direct results of this lack of healthy food options is higher energy intake which leads to higher rates of childhood obesity (Borradaile, et al., 2009). Several HKHC grantees are seeking to improve the availability, quality, and affordability of healthy foods to make healthier choices more easily available in these underserved communities.
Baldwin Park, CA: Youth Engagement in the (Corner Store) Healthy Selection Program
Baldwin Park is going beyond simply adding healthy foods to corner stores. Adult and youth community leaders are working with local corner store owners to revamp floor plans and product placement based on a comprehensive Corner Store Marketing Audit. The team of youth and community members documented current corner store conditions within walking distance of schools. They surveyed corner store customers to discover their current shopping behaviors, motivations and what they would like to see changed. Using this information they were able share valuable marketing information with eight corner stores now involved in the Healthy Selection Program and are working to increase media coverage and business.
King Co./Seattle, WA: Public Housing Residents Push for Healthier Options at Local Walgreens
King County/Seattle is using a dynamic approach to increase healthy food choices at local stores by attracting new healthy businesses and incorporating healthy foods into existing ones. Encouraged by HKHC grantee Seattle Public Housing Authority, High Point housing residents surveyed the community asking members if they would buy fresh produce at the local Walgreens if it were offered, and what types of produce they’d like to buy. The survey came back indicating a strong demand for produce at Walgreens and after working with Walkgreens’ management within a week fruits and vegetables were for sale. Residents have used this momentum to successfully advocate for the opening of a new, healthy mini-mart which sells diverse and culturally specific food options.
Louisville, KY: YMCA takes the Lead in Louisville’s Healthy in a Hurry
The Center for Healthy Equity partnered with the Greater Louisville YMCA and neighborhood-based organizations to launch the ‘Healthy in a Hurry’ corner store initiative, so named by local youth. They leveraged CDC grant funding and private donations to provide store owners in two ‘food desert’ neighborhoods with refrigeration, signage, marketing, start-up inventory and ongoing technical assistance. As a result of this initiative, store owners are able to renovate their facilities to make them more attractive and easier to sell fresh produce. For example, some have replaced beer advertising that often obstructs safety with unobtrusive Healthy in a Hurry signage instead. The HKHC partnership hopes that the 80% of residents who reported they would eat more fruits and vegetables if available will take advantage of the new Healthy in a Hurry stores in their neighborhoods.
Watsonville/Pajaro Valley, CA: Jóvenes SANOS Takes up the Fight for Healthy Markets
Jóvenes SANOS, a youth group supported by the United Way of Santa Cruz (the HKHC grantee) with initial funding from Healthy Eating Active Communities (HEAC) of the California Endowment, has successfully advocated for five corner store owners to sign the Watsonville Healthy Markets contract. Market owners have agreed to increase fruits and vegetables sold and display more advertisements promoting healthier foods, and fewer ads for beer, cigarettes, and junk food. The youth advocates also provide training to market owners and their staff, as well as, nutrition posters for display in the store. Tracking data has shown that participation in Watsonville Healthy Markets has not hurt sales; in fact, it has increased sales for some of the Watsonville market owners. The program’s benefits go beyond improvements in community health and nutrition. Participation in Jóvenes SANOS enhances individual leadership and public speaking skills, and teaches youth that they have a voice and that they can change their community for the better. More markets are planned for Watsonville/Pajaro Valley, particularly around schools and parks with all markets will receive assistance to accept WIC/SNAP benefits.
HKHC Communities Healthy Corner Store Work In Process
Led by the Cook County Family Connection, the HKHC Cook County, GA partnership plans on providing assistance to convenience and dollar stores to become certified WIC vendors and offer fresh fruits and vegetables. The HKHC partnership will connect store owners and staff with local farmers and produce distributors, and assist them in securing necessary cooling equipment for fresh produce.
Led by the Hamilton County General Health District, the HKHC Hamilton County, OH partnership will build upon their previous corner store initiative focused in three communities, to expand its reach to other communities of need in the county. The targeted stores and policy strategies will be informed by a broad community food assessment and community engagement.
Healthy Corner Store initiatives are being met with great success in HKHC across the country. A key theme that has helped in their success has been authentic community engagement. Utilizing the power of youth in Baldwin Park and Watsonville strengthened the project’s energy and saliency as an issue that directly affects students and their families. Being inclusive of all community voices with multi-lingual advertising and demand for multi-cultural foods is an asset that communities like King County/Seattle have tapped into. Engaging in innovative partnerships with organizations such as the YMCA has increased Louisville’s capacity to reduce food deserts with the introduction of healthier options.
Borradaile, K. E., Sherman, S., Vander Veur, S. S., McCoy, T., Sandoval, B. N., Karpyn, A., et al. (2009). Snacking in Children: The Role of Urban Corner Stores. Pediatrics, 1293-1298.