The USDA has published a guide to help convenience stores to sell healthier items.
A new publication has been introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will help residents of low-income neighborhoods gain greater access to healthy food items. The publication, The Healthy Corner Stores Guide, offers information, strategies and resources for organizations that are looking to make healthy foods and beverages available in convenience stores within their communities.
“USDA is committed to encouraging neighborhood stores to stock and sell healthier food and beverage items,” said USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, Kevin Concannon. “Families in low-income areas rely on corner stores because their communities often lack supermarkets, farmers markets or stores where they can buy fresh produce and other healthy foods.”
Concannon announced the new publication at Good Neighbor Mini Market, which carries a variety of groceries and fresh produce in Philadelphia. Corner stores like these, often referred to as convenience stores or bodegas, are small-scale stores that may have a more limited selection of food and products. The Good Neighbor Mini Market has been enrolled in The Food Trust’s Healthy Corner Store Network since July 2010. The network connects community members, nonprofits, local government, funders and other advocates across the country to share resources and best practices on the latest strategies for healthy food retail in small stores.
The Good Neighbor Mini Market has more than quadrupled its fresh produce selection since joining the Healthy Corner Store Network. It has tripled the low-sodium and low-sugar canned vegetable and fruit inventory and introduced a wide variety of healthy snacks. Research conducted by Tulane University shows that the amount of shelf space dedicated to fruits and vegetables at corner stores like this one is positively associated with increased consumption of these healthier food choices among nearby residents.
The Healthy Corner Stores Guide provides strategies for marketing healthier product options, sourcing healthy food and beverages, and making changes to the way food and beverage items are displayed. For example, stores could display healthier items at eye-level, near checkout counters or by entryways, so they are visible when customers first enter the store. The guide also describes how to engage owners and community members through nutrition education and program incentives. One great example is the New York City “Adopt a Bodega” program, which gives stores a star rating based on its achievements.
Encouraging and supporting the availability of healthier food and beverage items for all Americans is an important goal for USDA. The Healthy Corner Stores Guide is the latest initiative in ongoing efforts to promote healthy food and lifestyle choices by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients and residents of low-income communities. Others include:
- A proposed rule to improve the range of healthy food choices SNAP-authorized retailers must stock.
- Making funds available that help participants in SNAP increase their purchases of fruits and vegetables.
- Working to increase SNAP access at roadside farm stands, farmers markets, and directly from local farmers.
The final rule for SNAP education implemented in 2013, which authorized the promotion of physical activity as part of nutrition education and obesity prevention.
Over the past seven years, USDA has enhanced federal nutrition programs, providing a critical safety net for millions of American children and families. By expanding access to nutritious foods and increasing awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, USDA programs have made a real difference in the lives of many, promising a brighter, healthier future for our nation.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs. In addition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, these programs include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net.