The purpose of the Healthy Convenience Store Initiative (HCSI) is to improve access to healthy food options for residents of neighborhoods and communities where health and economic measures indicate that they are in greatest need of healthy food choices. Improving access helps to make the healthy choice the easy choice!
In 2012, the YMCA received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (CDC REACH) project to implement a Healthy Convenience Store Initiative. However, the funding did not include research and planning. Including the Healthy Convenience Store Initiative as a subplanning demonstration project will allow YMCA to continue their work improving access to healthy food choices for communities in the planning and design area.
Project goals for the YMCA Healthy Convenience Store Initiative are:
- Creating a plan for implementing a pilot Healthy Convenience Stores program in the YMCA’s Memphis REACH study area; and
- Developing a Healthy Convenience Store Planning and Design Manual for use by communities throughout the region interested in increasing access to healthy foods for residents through a healthy convenience stores approach.
The Healthy Convenience Store Initiative utilized a community-based participatory research approach in combination with an analysis of best practices to create a strategy for locating convenience stores and developing a plan to implement healthy convenience store practices. The research phase helped the Memphis REACH project better understand what consumers (community residents) perceive as opportunities and constraints to improving access to healthy foods through a healthy convenience store initiative. Combined with emerging best practices from healthy corner store or convenience store efforts from other cities throughout the nation, this manual’s recommendations benefit from a growing body of knowledge about how to increase access to healthy foods through convenience stores and are locally informed and relevant because of community-based participation.
After researching other healthy convenience store initiatives and listening to community residents and stores for area specific needs, the team concluding the following points should guide implementation of the initiative in two pilot stores:
- Gradual changes improving the product mix in the store’s offerings over time
- Education for business owners and community residents about healthy foods and how to use them
- Recommendations of food suppliers
- Recommended store improvements based on discussion and individual environments and needs
- Marketing: All store implementation research confirmed that promotion and visual cues are key
- Helping store owners with a sustainable business model
- Connecting stores with small business development resources
Pilot stores selected were the Herndon Grocery, located at 3118 Chelsea Avenue in the Douglass neighborhood of Memphis and El Amigo Supermarket at 987 Berclair Road in Memphis.