High Quality Healthy Food Options Expanded for Promise Zone Residents
August 2018 - The Need
Sacramento is recognized as the Farm to Fork Capital and renowned for the diversity, quality, and vitality of food and agriculture throughout the region. However, food insecurity continues to be a serious problem for many County residents with rates higher than both state and national averages.
Although 66 percent of SNAP-Ed adults have regular access to fresh fruits and vegetables; only 40 percent can find them at affordable prices. By working with retailers in low-income, low-access census tracts the goal is to expand the quality and quantity of affordable heathy foods, and, in turn, sustainably increase profits. Store owners need support and resources on how to stock and sell fresh fruits and vegetables at a reasonable price.
In partnership with the Sacramento County Obesity Prevention Program, Public Health Institute's (PHI) Center for Wellness and Nutrition (CWN) implements a Healthy Retail Program that reaches low-income County residents in qualifying retail establishments and public events. Through the Healthy Retail Program, strategies are implemented in grocery stores, corner markets and food distribution sites that empower and support low-income County residents to choose healthy food and beverages. Retailers agree to make specific healthy changes and in exchange receive benefits including free publicity, merchandising and promotional materials and assistance with implementing healthy changes. A variety of merchandising materials, including in-store signage and recipe cards, encourage shoppers to increase their purchases of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, there are opportunities to connect with community through promotional activities such as food demonstrations, store tours, shopper surveys and retail-sponsored community events.
Our program also delivers a cooking class series to empower residents with the knowledge and skills to prepare fresh, healthy, and budget-friendly meals, thereby increasing customer demand for healthy foods and sustainability of the Healthy Retail Program. For more information visit: https://cookingmatters.org/
Currently we are working with 10 retail partners who are implementing healthy retail strategies such as healthy messaging in the store through wobblers, clings and shelf tags; promotion of healthy items through food demonstrations, taste tests and Harvest of the Month; and product placement with healthy checkout options and healthy refrigeration section.
Shopper surveys show that 85.2% of respondents who remembered seeing the food demonstrations tasted the recipe(s) that were demonstrated. 69.6% of those who tasted the recipe(s) indicated that it encouraged them to purchase the featured fruits and vegetables.
In March 2018, PHI CWN was invited to participate in the SHOP Healthy Here (SHH) Pilot Program led by the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch (NEOP). The SHH Pilot Program supports retail-based policy, systems, and environmental change strategies that encourage retailers in low-income communities to increase access to and availability of healthy food and beverage choices.
We continue to work with the current store owners on creating a healthier store environment and plan to work with 10 additional retailers serving low-income neighborhoods over the next year. We are developing local partnerships with produce distributors and community-based organizations to support stores in making healthy, sustainable changes.
The Healthy Retail Program has the potential to impact hundreds of low-income individuals and families in the Sacramento area by providing access to fresh and healthy foods in their neighborhood stores. Neighborhood stores in Sacramento County will significantly improve the selection, placement, and promotion of healthy foods and beverages. Residents in low-income neighborhoods in Sacramento will have increased knowledge and skills related to purchasing, cooking and budgeting for healthier foods through the Cooking Matters classes. Providing recognition to neighborhood stores for increasing access to fresh, healthy foods and their commitment to healthy retail changes will result in desirable economic and health benefits for the community and its residents. The Healthy Retail Program model and interventions can be replicated across California to impact shoppers statewide.