Grant to help bring fresh food to corner stores

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Committee members of the Healthy Corner Store Initiative meet at Walnut Way Conservation Corp. (Photo by Kenya C. Evans)

Lindsay Heights Health Alliance recently received a two-year grant from the Healthy Wisconsin Partnership Program to develop the Healthy Corner Store Initiative.

The planning grant, “Around the Corner to Better Health,” is part of the Advancing Healthier Wisconsin endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The grant became effective Jan. 1, and goes through Dec. 31, 2013.

Over the two-year cycle, $100,000 will be awarded each year to LHHA. Staci Young, assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, is the academic partner for the grant. Eric Gass, public health research and policy director for the City of Milwaukee Health Department, also will be involved in the project.

“I will be talking with (city) Health Department food inspectors about the relationships they have with the stores,” said Gass.

“We will then collaboratively explore solutions to their issues, seek Department of City Development Façade grants to improve the stores’ appearance, explore ways to streamline the regulatory process and explore ways to increase the capacity of local food growers in the city,” he added.

If the initiative is successful, the city will consider implementing LHHA’s healthy corner store model throughout Milwaukee, according to said Jessie Tobin, program manager for the alliance.

From left: Joyce Ellewanger, community member; Rajinder “Mike” Kaur, owner, Magic Food Market; Charlotte Litjens, development assistant, Maures Development Group, LLC.; Melissa DeNomie, project coordinator, Medical College of Wisconsin; Tyanna McLaurin, healthy community coordinator, Lindsay Heights Health Alliance; Eric Gass, public health research and policy director, Milwaukee Health Department. (Photo by Kenya C. Evans)

The funding will also be used to create awareness about healthy food options as well as get fresh foods into participating corner stores in Lindsay Heights: Eagle Foods, 1401 W. Center St.; Families First Food Market, 1845 N. 12th St.; and Magic Food Market, 2879 N. 16th St.

“Right now we’re still in the idea-generating stage,” Tobin said. “We want to work with the stores, and figure out how we can help them do outreach and market fresh food better.”

This is the first time the Health Department is working with a neighborhood in a business partnership, Gass said. “If we can work together to improve nutrition in the community, and find a product that will make money for the stores, their business model will improve as well.  It can be a win-win for all involved.”

Among LHHA’s goals are to understand the barriers and incentives for corner stores to carry healthy foods; help them connect with healthy food vendors, such as Alice’s Garden; and improve placement of fresh food in the stores to make it more visible to customers.

Tyanna McLaurin, healthy community coordinator for Lindsay Heights Health Alliance, will work with stores on their outreach and marketing. Cooking demonstrations, engaging youth to become ambassadors for health and conducting nutrition workshops for the community are all options.

Tobin said she plans to hire a part-time grant coordinator by March.

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