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New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative Set to Expand Following Statewide WIC Trainings

July 8, 2014 | Community News

wicThe NJ Department of Health (DOH) Chronic Disease unit and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program recently collaborated to increase access to healthier foods in small stores throughout New Jersey. Supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the organizations worked with The Food Trust to create and execute a series of 20 bilingual training sessions that reached all WIC authorized vendors in the state. The trainings took place from April to June 2014 as part of an interactive training session that takes place once every three years in conjunction with NJ WIC programming. Beginning June 1, 2014, New Jersey WIC instituted a new policy requiring all WIC-authorized stores to stock more fresh fruits and vegetables.

“With this new policy going into effect, the training provided us a great opportunity to state the business case for the promotion of healthy retail sales, showcasing how store owners can maintain profits while selling healthier, more nutritious items,” said Stephanie Weiss, senior associate,The Food Trust.

The training sessions focused on several technical assistance modules, including: selecting healthy product inventory, buying and handling fresh produce, pricing and promotions, and in-store marketing strategies to promote healthy products. Attendees received a manual entitled – “Sell Healthy! Guide – Learn How to Sell Healthy Foods, Increase Sales and Attract More Customers” and were directed to including the New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative, New Jersey Food Access Initiative, Healthy Food Access Portal, and how to source local New Jersey produce.

Attendees took part in a voluntary survey to assess their reactions to the training and concerns regarding selling fresh fruits and vegetables in their stores. Key outcomes included:

  • Most respondents desired training in the areas of: educating consumers, business management/planning, and funding/financing operations.
  • Top concerns about stocking fresh fruit and vegetables for small stores included waste/spoilage, marketing and profitability.
  • 60% of small stores stocked fewer than 10 varieties of fresh products.
  • 186 stores that completed the training expressed interest in joining or learning more about becoming a member of the New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative.

“Small store owners were very enthusiastic about the training, and we believe we’ve created a great partnership through the trainings to help build capacity of these stores to sell healthy foods, including fresh produce,” said Weiss. “Through this initiative we’ve been able to really maximize both enrollment and other state programming. The Food Trust looks forward to expanding on this effort as part of a new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to develop a Healthy Food Network in conjunction with the NJ Partnership for Healthy Kids.”

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