The Trenton Healthy Corner Store Network hosted Mercer County Freeholder & President/CEO of the Trenton YMCA Sam Frisby; Mercer County Freeholder Anthony Verrelli; legislative staff from Assemblyman Reed Gusciora’s Office; and other local officials on a site visit at New Way Deli Market in Trenton (617 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd) on December 12, 2017.
The tour showcased the positive impact healthy corner stores like New Way Deli Market are making to increase people’s access to affordable, healthy food, as well as bolster economic development efforts by capturing retail dollars that would otherwise be spent outside of the community. The visit also featured the store’s new Heart Smarts program that includes on-site nutrition lessons and health screenings that are made available with support from Novo Nordisk.
The Trenton Healthy Corner Store Network was launched by the Trenton YMCA in 2012 and is part of a larger statewide effort of the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, The Food Trust and The American Heart Association called the New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative. The program is centered on increasing the availability of healthy, affordable food in local stores and bodegas in communities that are underserved by supermarkets. To qualify, corner stores must add healthy food items to their inventory and display sanctioned marketing materials — including recipe cards — to indicate the nutritious food options. Participating stores are eligible for training and technical assistance that enable them to profitably stock and sell the new, healthy food items, as well as advertising, marketing, and promotional materials to attract new customers.
Earlier this year, Trenton Healthy Corner Store Network was expanded by The Food Trust to include nutrition lessons and health services with support from Novo Nordisk. The funding is enabling the implementation of Heart Smarts and Health Screenings at participating stores like New Way Deli.
Heart Smarts brings nutrition lessons right to the store. Customers learn about selecting healthy foods such as heart-healthy whole grains and taste recipes made from healthy products available on site. Each participant receives four Heart Bucks (each $1) to redeem for any heart-healthy items in the store as well as other incentives and information to encourage healthy eating. Health screenings are also part of Heart Smarts. A nurse from Capital Health and the Trenton Health Team’s Mobile Health Van give free blood pressure screenings at the store.
“Far too many New Jerseyans live in communities where they are unable to make healthy food choices because there are no well-stocked grocery or convenience stores in their neighborhoods,” said Ana Ramos who oversees The New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative at The Food Trust. “By utilizing the existing network of corner stores across the state, we are helping remove this barrier to food access, enabling more people to make the healthy choice, the easy choice,” she said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 340,000 New Jersey residents are living in food deserts across the state, while The Reinvestment Fund suggests even more alarming numbers with as much as 10% of the state’s population lacking access to healthy food options. The incidence of obesity is disproportionately higher in lower-income neighborhoods, many of the same places where residents lack access to stores that sell healthy foods. In 2013, New Jersey was one of six states that saw a slight increase in adult obesity, and the state’s rate of obesity among toddlers who reside in low-income communities is the second highest in the nation.
“Many corner stores are located near schools making them frequent destinations for children who, on average, purchase 360 calories on unhealthy snacks like chips, candy, and soda during each visit,” said Dr. Darrin Anderson, Associate Executive Director of the NJ YMCA State Alliance. “If healthy corner stores like New Way Deli Market can encourage even half of those kids to pick up a piece of fruit or yogurt, we can improve the health of children and families in New Jersey. Novo Nordisk’s investment in the Trenton Healthy Corner Store Network has enabled us to expand our strategy in increasing healthy food access and build a culture of health in the state.”
“We’re thrilled to support the work of such a strong and committed team of partners in building a culture of health by making the nutritious choice the easy choice in underserved communities,” said Genevieve Jean-Bart Fadayomi, Associate Director, U.S. Corporate Giving & Social Impact, Novo Nordisk Inc.
For more information about the Trenton Healthy Corner Store Network, please contact Ana Ramos at ARamos@thefoodtrust.org.
 Levi J, S. L. (2014). The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America.
Trust for America’s Health