After three years, an initiative to get small convenience stores to offer customers healthy alternatives such as fresh produce has begun to bear fruit.
The Healthy Corner Store program, which began in 2012, welcomed its 11th Toledo-area convenience store into the fold Tuesday when Moe’s Market at 4401 Hill Ave. in South Toledo began carrying a small assortment of produce.
To promote the event, a dietitian was at Moe’s to offer food demonstrations, recipes, and samples of healthy foods.
“You never know how many customers will stop by, but we wanted to have free samples and provide recipes,” said Tony Maziarz, the Creating Healthy Communities grant coordinator at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.
The Healthy Corner Store program is sponsored by the health department and Live Well Greater Toledo, a community coalition promoting policy and other changes for a healthier community.
The Centers for Disease Control provided a $110,000 grant to pay for the stores’ marketing of healthier choices. But the program also receives assistance from the state’s Creating Healthy Communities program.
In the end, though, it is the stores themselves that help change eating habits by carrying, promote, and selling healthier items such as bananas, apples, oranges, and vegetables.
The program began in 2012 when the Saveway Market on Broadway agreed to carry fresh produce. In November, Toledo’s Ridi family to agreed to carry produce at two of its 37 Toledo-area Stop & Go carryouts, Mr. Maziarz said. Then last spring, Stop & Go owner Dan Ridi committed seven more stores to the program.
The program has participants in the east, south, north, and central city areas of Toledo. Mr. Maziarz said Moe’s Market marked a new step in the program — public sponsorship.
Charter school Winterfield Venture Academy donated $500 to help pay for the produce stand in Moe’s and also pay for signage. Winterfield is near Moe’s, and school officials wanted students to have healthier choices available on their way to and from school.
“We really wanted to partner with a school so that we can promote [healthier choices] in the school,” Mr. Maziarz said. “But we’re just trying this out. We hope that we can have a package out for the entire community soon so that if a business wants to sponsor this and put their name on a sign, it’s not a lot of money but it’s good PR.”
While the program will keep seeking new participants, Mr. Maziarz said a new goal next year is to expand offerings at the 11 stores participating.
Whole grain breads, unsweetened beverages, additional fruits and vegetables, and whole grain pastas would be offered if the participating stores agree, he added.
Contact Jon Chavez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6128.