Fresh Produce at the Corner Store Makes Healthy Eating Easier

Imagine you have diabetes. Your doctor has told you to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, but the nearest store does not sell these foods.
That was the reality for Maria in Torres, a Philadelphia resident who has both diabetes and high blood pressure. Eating healthy is a key part of keeping these conditions under control. “I cannot live without vegetables,” Maria said. But buying fresh produce in her neighborhood was once difficult.
Today, Maria finds it much easier to follow her doctor’s advice. The corner store, Alba’s Grocery, now carries a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are the ingredients for the healthy, traditional dishes Maria incorporates into her healthy lifestyle.  Alba’s fresh produce efforts are part of a citywide initiative to increase access to healthy foods areas of town where nutritious foods are nearly nonexistent.
The effort was made possible through programs supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which supports communities across the country by making healthy living easier where people live, work, learn and play.
Through the Philadelphia initiative, store owners received refrigerators and produce baskets and were introduced to local produce suppliers. They also received training on how to market, display and handle fresh produce to boost sales and reduce waste. Project staff visit stores every month or two to offer ongoing training and help.
The result? More than 600 local grocery stores in Philadelphia are part of the program, and nine out of 10 of these stores are in the poorest neighborhoods. Citywide, more than 18,000 new healthy foods have been added to corner-store shelves.  Owners appreciate that their stores are more attractive to people who would like to purchase fresh produce, low-fat dairy products and lean meats.  Shoppers like Maria are eager to buy the healthy foods. “I am motivated to eat better food because it is more easily available and affordable,” she said. She is excited that she can more easily make mangú, a traditional Dominican dish she loves that consists of plantains, onions and avocados.
“Stories like Maria’s are being repeated throughout the United States as communities make changes that will help residents eat better, become more physically active and reduce tobacco use and exposure,” said Leonard Jack, Jr., PhD, MSc, director of the CDC’s Division of Community Health. “These changes help to make healthy living easier for Americans across the country.”

To learn more about making your community healthier, go to makinghealtheasier.org.

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