As part of a statewide effort to combat obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes, one western Massachusetts city has launched a pilot program targeting the corner store. Its an effort to get healthier foods on the shelves of convenience stores and then change the impulse habits of shoppers. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
The city of Springfield’s health department is working with five convenience stores to help stock and promote fruits and vegetables, low fat milk, whole grain breads and healthy snacks. The stores are located in inner city neighborhoods without a full-line food market, or are frequented by children on their way to and from school or office workers looking for a quick bite on their break.
The Healthy Corner Store Initiative is funded with $10,000 from Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare. Kate McEvoy-Zdonczyk of Harvard Pilgrim says the program is tailored to the “ grab and go” shopper.
The corner store program is part of a larger statewide effort to promote healthier eating and exercise called “ Mass In Motion”. Nicole Bourden, who is the Mass In Motion program director in Springfield said officials hope to expand the Healthy Corner Store Initative to 20 percent of the convenience stores in Springfield over the next five years.
The program will provide a small subsidy to stores to help put in the infrastructure, such as refrigeration equipment, needed to stock fresh food. It will also help to train store staff in consumer education techniques, such as offering free samples of healthy foods. A marketing campaign will identify the locations of the stores offering healthier food choices.
A Pride Market convenience store in Springfield’s North End neighborhood started selling an expanded line of fresh fruits and vegetables a few yeas ago. Pride CEO Bob Bolduc says the store now partners with the YMCA to put on nutrition education programs.
Iris Lopez, who went into the Pride Market to buy milk , said people in poorer neighborhood can’t afford to travel far to shop, so its good to have healthier foods brought closer to where they live.
Springfield Health Commissioner, Helen Caulton-Harris said the city joined the Mass In Motion program three years ago in response to a study that found 60 percent of 7 and 8 year olds were obese as determined by body mass index.
There are 53 communities in Massachusetts that are participants in the Mass In Motion program.