Article co-authored by The Food Trust, published in Preventing Chronic Disease:
Urban corner store interventions have been implemented to improve access to and promote purchase of healthy foods. However, the perspectives of store owners and managers, who deliver and shape these interventions in collaboration with nonprofit, government, and academic partners, have been largely overlooked. We sought to explore the views of store owners and managers on the role of their stores in the community and their beliefs about health problems and solutions in the community.
...when millions of Americas rely on convenience stores as their primary grocery, offering more nutritious options becomes a public health imperative.
Several programs around the country are trying to do just that -- putting up the cash so convenience store owners can remodel, showcasing healthy food up front and relegating the sodas and Ding Dongs to the back.
"Right when you come in the door we've got veggies, fruits, whole grain cereals," said Clara Olivares, owner of Olivares Food Market near downtown Philadelphia. "We wanted to offer more choices to our customers, and for the community to get healthier."
Refurbishing stores: In 2012, Olivares signed up for a program run by The Food Trust, a regional advocacy group that gets funding from a variety of public and private sources. The Food Trust provided money and expertise, sprucing up her store with a new refrigerated display case, awning, vegetable kiosk, as well as signs throughout directing customers to the healthy eats.
The Trust provides training on how to handle fresh produce -- such as not storing the bananas next to the apples, as apples give off ethylene, which rots the bananas. There's tricks on how to sell produce, like never letting just a few pieces of fruit linger at the bottom of a big box, as well as training with ordering and book keeping.
Since partnering with Philadelphia's health department in 2010, the Trust has done varying degrees of renovations on over 200 stores. A full-on conversion like Olivares' cost about $60,000.
Corner stores — often thought of as a source of unhealthy foods — can be key partners in the effort to improve access to healthy, affordable foods. Evaluation by The Food Trust and Econsult Corporation has shown that the corner stores in Philadelphia that have introduced healthier produce to store shelves have resulted in healthier choices, healthier businesses and healthier communities.
A new study published in Preventive Medicine found that The Food Trust's corner store interventions aimed at increasing healthy food availability are associated with improvements in the availability of low-fat milk, fruits, and some vegetables, especially when infrastructure changes, such as refrigeration and shelving enhancements, are offered.