Over 19,000 residents of Jackson County live in census tracts designated as Low Access Areas with limited access to sources of healthy and affordable foods. Residents of underserved communities may lack the transportation to easily make trips to stores in other parts of town. With limited transportation, low-income residents often must rely on smaller convenience stores closer to their homes. These stores often lack produce and other nutritious foods. Studies have shown that better access to healthy food corresponds to healthier eating and lower rates of obesity and diabetes. Improving access to healthy food through smaller retail outlets also brings economic benefits through encouragement and support of these small businesses.
Improving corner and convenience stores is less complex and costly than constructing a new store and builds on existing community resources. In addition, stores with a long history in the community often have extensive knowledge about the specific tastes and desires of residents. Improving the product mix at smaller stores and addressing other issues of viability—such as pricing, food quality and freshness, and customer service—are strategies that enhance access to healthy food in underserved communities by building upon existing community resources.
The Healthy Corner Store initiative is a collaborative effort to support increasing the availability and sales of healthy, affordable foods through small stores in underserved communities. Initial efforts are focused on WIC-approved convenience stores in the City of Jackson. If you are a community member of a low resource area or a business leader of a local corner/convenience store and are interested in participating in efforts to improve healthy offerings, contact Julie Weisbrod, Healthy Communities Coordinator, Jackson County Health Department at 768-1650.