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Promoting healthy food at corner stores

WBFO file photo

When you walk into many corner stores, it’s often a cinch to grab sugary-sweet or high-sodium items. Finding more healthy food options in some of these stores isn’t as simple.

A local initiative is targeting what some call food deserts: neighborhoods that are devoid of stores that offer a variety of healthy food options.

The Healthy Corner Store Initiative is working with merchants to provide fresh and affordable produce.

Annie Todd, community impact coordinator for Mobile Safety-Net, told WBFO advocates have been studying the issue for a couple years and pinpointed pressing needs in some communities.

“They identified food access as one of the key issues on the East Side of Buffalo. Out of that came the development of the healthy corner store initiative,” Todd said. “Originally, we wanted to tackle it from a transportation perspective and find a way to ship people out to the nearest grocery stores. But ultimately, we decided it would almost be easier to work with existing corner stores to get fresh and healthy items into the stores.”

This month’s re-opening of two corner stores on East Ferry and East Delavan comes as a part of the initiative.

While the focus of the effort is on lower income individuals, Todd says it will affect people of all economic backgrounds.

“It can also affect middle or even higher income folks. It’s about access, it’s about having the food on hand. Often times when you go into a corner store, it’s the surgery sweet and high sodium items that are easy and quick to grab. We want to make fresh healthy items just as easy and quick to grab.”

The East Side stores are not the first to partner with the effort. Two stores in the University District started offering healthy food options earlier this year.

“We’ve had over the past few months, several people interested in other parts of the city -- not just the East side, but the West side as well. Communities are interested, other cities like Lackawanna are interested. We expect to see this program expand but at this point time we’re trying to target just some specific neighborhoods on the East Side.”

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