Corner-store project promotes healthy foods

08/21/2014 9:44 AM

08/21/2014 9:45 AM

Better health may literally be just around the corner for residents of Old North Durham.

The Durham County Department of Public Health has partnered with the owner of Express Mart, a corner store at the intersection of North Roxboro and East Geer streets, to increase access to healthy foods in a neighborhood with few healthy options.

Now, when costumers walk into the store, they will find bright labels making the “good for you” items easy to find and a basket of fresh fruit at the register to encourage healthy eating. The team took it a step further by replacing alcohol advertisements with banners promoting healthy living and covered a window with a decal promoting healthy behaviors.

Initiatives that provide increased access to fresh produce, low-fat snacks, fruits, vegetables, and nutritious beverages are needed, especially at a time when nearly two-thirds of adults in Durham are considered overweight or obese. Less than one in five Durham County residents eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. This number grows even smaller for residents with an annual income less than $50,000.

By placing more nutritious foods in local corner stores, community members who lack the means of getting to a larger grocery store will have access to healthy foods.

“Express Mart already sold a number of healthy items, including reduced sodium beans, fruit canned in 100 percent fruit juice, vegetable juices, whole wheat bread, tuna fish and reduced fat milk. By placing these items in a more visible location and labeling them, we are making it easy for people to make healthy choices,” said Kelly Warnock, a nutritionist at the Durham County Department of Public Health.

Increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables for low income populations is nothing new for the public health department, as partnerships with organizations such as Veggie Van, continue to flourish. They have even enlisted members of Durham Together for Resilient Youth (TRY) to create a documentary about corner store conversion in hopes that other stores will follow.

“Of the six leading causes of death in Durham, nutrition plays a preventative role in four. Transforming convenient stores to foster healthy choices is a small step towards big improvements in the well-being of Durham residents,” Warnock said.

Funding for the project was provided by the Community Transformation Grant (CTG) Project.

For more information about the public health department’s corner store initiative, contact Warnock at 919-560-7857, or e-mail

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