New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK) collaborates with high-profile, high-results partners in pursuing its mission to implement strategies that support access to affordable healthy foods to help children achieve a healthy weight. One such partner is The Food Trust. In a study conducted by Philanthropedia, The Food Trust was ranked #2 in America as a “high-impact” nonprofit focused on children’s health and nutrition.
In 2011, The Food Trust received support from the Campbell’s Healthy Communities Initiative to expand its Philadelphia Healthy Corner Store Initiative into Camden and create the Camden Healthy Corner Store Network. In 2014, NJPHK and The Food Trust joined forces to build off the successes of the Camden network and replicate that achievement throughout New Jersey, starting with the other four NJPHK cities (Newark, New Brunswick, Trenton and Vineland). The two organizations, along with The American Heart Association, convened a statewide task force to examine business owner and community needs and policy and program solutions to expand the distribution, promotion and sale of healthy food in New Jersey corner stores.
Ana Ramos, a project manager at The Food Trust, has been working with NJPHK to make the task force’s recommendations a reality. “Through a robust network of partners, including local YMCAs and health departments, we now have 26 cities in the New Jersey Corner Store Network—stretching from Jersey City to Millville,” Ramos said. “With this strong base of store owners championing healthy food, we can begin to implement new programmatic aspects in line with the task force recommendations, such as bringing health care partners into the initiative, implementing ‘Heart Smarts,’ and piloting partnerships with local farms.”
Heart Smarts, now in Camden and Trenton, is an in-store nutrition education curriculum developed by The Food Trust. A Food Trust team member gives customers quick tips on different health and nutrition topics. The lessons occur once a week for eight weeks. Heart Smarts may have more components, including Heart Bucks—$1 coupons that customers can use to buy healthy food products in the store—and health screenings for BMI and blood pressure.
“Heart Smarts connects health to diet,” Ramos said. “If a customer tests for high blood pressure, we can start a conversation in the store about sodium intake, point the customer toward low-sodium products, and explain how those products can help. Then the customer can use Heart Bucks to purchase the products.” Several local partners are implementing a variety of in-store education programs, including Heart Smarts, and have established relationships with health care providers.
Food Bucks Rx is another way to connect health to diet and involve health care practitioners. Food Bucks Rx began piloting in Camden in October and November. Funded by The Campbell Soup Company and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Bucks Rx enables doctors at Cooper Children’s Regional Hospital to give well-visit patients a prescription—four $10 coupons—that can be used at a network corner store to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Patients must be screened for food insecurity and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) enrollment. After the pilot, The Food Trust will review workflow and redemption data with the hospital, while pursuing more retail locations such as the grocery store and farmers markets.
“We wouldn’t be having as big an impact without the partnership of NJPHK,” Ramos said. She sees direct impact in the community. “In fact, 76 percent of stores in Camden have seen an increase in sales of healthy products. That is our goal: for healthy corner stores to see that healthy products are good for their business and for the network to be successful and sustainable.”