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Atlantic City Corner Stores Get Healthy

September 29, 2016 | Community News, Community News and Media, Vineland

corner-store-striprev-300x300“I am writing to express my gratitude to your group for collaborating to improve health outcomes for Atlantic City residents, by making the healthy choice the easy choice,” wrote New Jersey State Senator Jim Whelan to David Calderetti, project manager of New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Vineland (NJPHK-V).

Whelan went on to commend the efforts of NJPHK-V and its partners, AtlantiCare, Rutgers SNAP-Ed and the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA to facilitate a Corner Store Initiative for residents of Atlantic City that will “help expand healthy food selection in corner stores—providing access to foods and encouraging healthier eating habits.”

Ten corner stores in Atlantic City have signed on to the Corner Store Initiative. The participating stores are located near schools to increase access to healthy food and snack options for students. Four of the stores are part of the Cedar Food Market, a family-owned business that operates corner stores in Atlantic City and Pleasantville. Sammy Nammour, group manager at Cedar Food Market, said that providing healthy options in his family’s stores is an extension of their interest in the well-being of their community.

“Everyone who comes in our stores is family, and our employees know our customers,” Nammour said. “We want to provide food that will keep our community healthy.”

Cedar Food Market offers hot and cold deli featuring grilled chicken, salads, and ground turkey. Nammour stated that it’s tough to stock fresh fruits and vegetables because of the spoilage, but they do carry the fresh produce that community members request.

The education that accompanies the Corner Store Initiative is extremely valuable according to Nammour. Colorful signage in each store explains what foods are most healthful. The Food Trust has a training process for successful implementation that teaches participants how to create an environment that’s conducive to healthy purchases. Strategies include moving healthy food to eye-level shelving, stocking lower sodium, and no-sugar-added products. SNAP-Ed has offered nutrition education to consumers at the stores focused on ways to reduce sodium and incorporate healthy food into daily diets. The AtlantiCare Foundation funded food vouchers this summer that were distributed from a mobile health unit at school sites. Participants in the health screening received vouchers that could be used that day at the corner store near the school. The staff was on hand to assist consumers in selecting healthy options.

“People want to be educated about what to eat,” Nammour said, adding that the community responds to the nutrition lessons. “Parents use candy or soda as a reward. They can’t give their kids everything, but they can buy a bag of chips.”

Now with the corner store initiative, nutrition education and store owners invested in community health, residents may begin to view an apple as a better reward—one that pays life-long dividends in improved health.

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