Earlier this year, on a sunny & beautiful spring day filled with inspiring partners, children, families, dignitaries and healthy food options for the residents of the City of Elizabeth’s Bayway area, our first healthy corner store opened in style!
That day was a celebration of our coalition’s commitment to making healthy and fresh food available for all residents. Emily’s Supermarket is a new partner in our strategy to “layer interventions” to create an environment of health, well-being and community for sustainable change. The Healthy Corner Stores initiative, in addition to our Mobile Market, Nutrition Education, 50-bed Plot Garden, and Community Paramedic programs–with support from the staff of the Bayway Family Success Center and the City of Elizabeth Housing Authority–helps to create healthy environmental changes.
Thank you to store owner Daniel Bernard and store manager Jose DeLeon, for jumping at the chance to be the first healthy corner store in Elizabeth.
“Several of us heard and saw members of the community buying healthier foods,” said Courtney Nelson, Senior Director of Community Health for the New Jersey Chapter of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA). “Several shoppers commented on how happy they were to see fresh fruit by the checkout register—and it shows because the store almost ran out of fruit!”
The kick-off also provided blood pressure screenings, healthy food tastings and family activities. As a follow up, regular screenings and nutrition classes will be offered at the store. Among the new and healthier foods Emily’s intends to stock will be whole wheat bread and tortillas, lowfat yogurt and lowfat string cheese. Fresh fruit will be displayed in new wicker baskets provided by Shaping Elizabeth through a $100 mini-grant from The Food Trust.
With thanks to Alane McCahey of The Gateway Family YMCA and project director of the Shaping Elizabeth coalition’s work supported by New Jersey Health Initiatives (NJHI), Stanley Neron (on behalf of Mayor J. Christian Bollwage) and Mario Pozo, of the AHA/ASA Board of Directors, spoke eloquently of the value of working together to improve health and the importance of making healthy food accessible in our most vulnerable communities.
Support from The Food Trust enabled AHA/ASA to supply vouchers that shoppers could use to purchase healthy foods during the celebration, 80 vouchers worth $160.00 of healthy food were redeemed. Healthy food vouchers will continue to be distributed during follow-up events and programs. The Shaping Elizabeth coalition is grateful for our new partnership with AHA/ASA and for their dedication to the Healthy Corner Stores initiative.
Two years and many challenges led to successfully opening the first Healthy Corner Store in Elizabeth this year. Here are some of the lessons we learned in doing this work:
- Corner Store owners need support for “what is healthy” nutrition education
- Store logistics must beadjusted to keep produce fresh and displayed in an inviting way so that people are enticed to buy it
- Stores do not carry some healthy options because they need new vendors that will meet the demand at a cost level they can afford
- Store owners need continued support on labeling and store placement
- Food Vouchers were seen as too complicated to redeem
Among the solutions we developed to address these learnings were:
- To contact the City of Elizabeth Health Officer and encourage a meeting with corner store owners that explored nutrition education and relevant, available, suppliers
- To continue towork with the store manager and provide support in regards to signage, placement, and education. Leveraging resources from our coalition partners, Janet Brun fromSnap-Ed and Corey Wu-Jung, Shaping Elizabeth Nutritionist will serve in these roles. Janet’s bi-lingual skills will also provide another important level of support for store owners.
- To redesign the vouchers
When the time, the partners and the community were aligned just right, it finally happened. The kick-off event exceeded our expectations and was a great example of collective impact and shared resources resulting in healthier options for Bayway families. Thank you to all of our partners, including the New Jersey Youth Corps – who pounded the pavement, giving out flyers and rallying the people to attend the celebration and join in the fun! Stay connected with our coalition and partner in our progress toward building a healthier community!