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Healthy Corner Stores crop up in neighborhoods
that are considered to be in a ‘food-desert’

Two West Central Spokane stores have been designated Healthy Corner Stores by the Spokane Regional Health District.  Such stores are located in areas defined by the U.S. “food deserts,” residential areas where people need to travel a mile or more to find a full-service food store. 

Usually major arterials are zoned for large grocery stores and residential areas are zoned not to allow retail stores to be built.

“When people jump into their cars to go elsewhere to shop, there’s no neighborhood hub where they can meet and build community,” said Natalie Tauzin, health program specialist and registered dietitian at the Spokane Regional Health District.

The Healthy Corner Store project is a lower-cost solution that can use existing structures, such as a convenience store whose owner agrees to certain criteria. 

Natalie listed the criteria for participation, pointing out the store’s level of participation is based on the number of elements they adopt.

• Have a fresh produce rack with 12 varieties of seasonal fruits and vegetables;

• Have whole-grains items such as breads, cereals and rice;

• Provide simple recipes for preparing foods;

• Position healthful foods near the cash register;

Retailers receive technical support and marketing assistance from a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Washington Department of Health’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work.  The grant helps provide some assistance to repair refrigeration or partially offset the cost of produce displays, as well as technical assistance on marketing and produce management, she said.

The stores also display Healthy Corner Store marketing materials.

Bong Cho Grocery

Bong Cho shows a Healthy Corner Store poster.

Bong’s Grocery and Deli has a medium-level covenant in their store at 2040 W. Boone. That means she meets three criteria.  Bong Cho opened the healthy-corner section in March 2011.

Parkside Grocery and Meat, currently has a high-level agreement, which means they meet all the criteria and are not selling alcohol or cigarettes in their store at 1913 W. Maxwell.  Chuck Redmond opened their store in September. They are the only WIC approved store with less than 1,000 square feet in Spokane.

They opened the new store in former office space they renovated.  They are a meat mart and cut meat, grind hamburger and make sausage daily.

 “The challenge is to encourage the community to shop at these stores that are offering healthier options,” Natalie said.  “Many people drive by Parkside on their way to Spokane Falls Community College or live on the western rim and can walk there.  These are people who could help sustain a store like this.”

Funding for these shops’ adopting healthier food options comes from federal stimulus under Communities Putting Prevention to Work a means to address obesity, she said.

Other funding that makes up the $10,000 for the project comes from the Spokane Regional Health District.

At Bongs, the funds helped with improving the sign, marketing and training to handle the fresh produce.

Two local gardens are working with the stores to sell their produce.  One is the Vinegar Flats Gardens of the St. Margaret’s Catholic Charities Shelter, which is run by Brian Estes.  The other is Project Hope, five plots in West Central Spokane worked by local teens.  Parkside is also selling produce from Hutterite communities in Odessa and near Spokane.

“With these local sources of seasonal produce, the fruits and vegetables are less expensive,” Natalie said.

On Fridays, from Sept. 9 to Nov. 4, the stores are giving away fresh produce to children who come in, as a promotion to draw them and their families.

“The hope is that the children will develop a positive association between the stores and fresh fruit,” said Natalie, who said the Healthy Corner Store project is focusing on children from Holmes and Bryant schools, Headstart and ECEAP.

Her role is working with community leaders to create a healthier West Central Spokane environment.  She is reaching out to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church to start an after-school program for children with healthy snack recipes provided through WSU’s Food Sense—one-to-one nutrition education.

West Central Community Center is suggesting that WIC clients check out Parkside Grocery, and personnel at Native Health on Maxwell are coming for lunch at the deli café beside Parkside.

Stores receive assistance to improve the store layout for display and storage; free advertising and promotional materials; marketing to current and new customers living and working in the area; training in purchasing, pricing, stocking and marketing healthful food, small business development resources and bi-annual evaluations of progress.

For information, call 324-1659 or email ntauzin@spokanecounty.org.

 

Copyright © October 2011 - The Fig Tree