News / USA

Corner Stores Take a Healthy Turn

New initiative helps urban shops stock fruits, vegetables and dairy

Oliviarie’s Food Market is one of 440 corner stores in Philadelphia that has signed up for a program to offer healthier options - including fruits and vegetables - to its customers.
Oliviarie’s Food Market is one of 440 corner stores in Philadelphia that has signed up for a program to offer healthier options - including fruits and vegetables - to its customers.


Matthew Petrillo

There are more than 89,000 corner stores in the United States. Most are small, locally-owned shops, and in poorer city neighborhoods, they might be the only general store for blocks around. But the stores rarely carry fresh, healthy foods.

A new initiative in Philadelphia is out to change that. The Food Trust, a nonprofit, is trying to make access to healthier foods easier and profitable.

High cost of junk food

Oliviarie’s Food Market is one of 440 corner stores in Philadelphia that has signed up for the program. The store acts as a kind of central hub for the surrounding neighborhoods, and often draws young people who end up purchasing high-calorie snacks.

"We usually have chips and juice, candy," says Anita Davis, an eighth grader.

"Soda and some gum," adds Shatera Della, her friend and schoolmate.

The girls attend Barratt Norris Middle School which is just a few blocks away from Oliviarie’s. They come here almost every day after school, and they’re not alone. More than a quarter of Philadelphia students visit corner stores twice a day, five days a week, according to a new study. "Snacking in Children: the Role of Urban Corner Stores," was published by the Temple University Center for Obesity Research and Education.

"In my opinion I think it’s really interesting that a child can spend a dollar and get 350 calories on average at any one trip to a corner store," says Stephanie Vander Veur, a clinical researcher at Temple. "It’s pretty amazing, if you ask me."

The Healthy Corner Store Initiative even offers refrigerators to stores that agree to join the program.
The Healthy Corner Store Initiative even offers refrigerators to stores that agree to join the program.

By purchasing 350 calories on each visit to the corner store, Vander Veur notes, these students are consuming almost half a kilo's worth of additional calories each week. That is one reason, she says, why half of all the children living in America’s cities are overweight.

Clara Santos, owner of Oliviarie’s Food Market, sees the same children twice a day. "When they’re going to school, and on their way back, they stop by the store."

Santos points to the bags of chips and soda bottles — the most popular items they purchase — all for under a dollar.

There are about 2,000 corner stores in Philadelphia and — like those elsewhere in the country — they often don’t carry healthier snacks and groceries, like fruits and dairy products. Owners point out that fresh foods need special handling, and they don’t know if customers will buy them.

A healthy profit

Brianna Almaguer Sandoval, project manager for the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, stresses that stores can turn a profit with healthier items. "With those packaged goods, the profit you’re making is a couple cents per item, but with produce, it tends to be higher."

The store owners receive $100 as a joining bonus, attractive baskets and stands to display their fresh produce, and refrigerators to store it in. The Food Trust works closely with store owners at first, introducing them to suppliers, showing them how to handle the food and providing materials to market it.

Sandoval explains that the Food Trust also provides a list of healthier items they could carry, including canned goods, whole grains, "...dairy products, lean cuts of meat, fresh produce, obviously. And then we go back in three or four months and see if they made those changes."

Without that help, Oliviarie’s Market owner Clara Santos says she would not have known how to begin selling fresh fruits and vegetables in her store. "I wouldn’t start it, I wouldn’t think about it, because I thought it was hard to introduce new things like that in a neighborhood where you don’t know if they’re going to buy it."

Exploring options

But the community has embraced the new access to healthier foods.

Theresea McClery appreciates the corner store convenience, because the closest supermarket, which carries fresh healthy foods, is not within walking distance. "I like the apples, the carrots. I buy the carrots and eat them with sour cream."

Santos says even the students are making healthy choices. "Some of them, in the morning, they eat an apple or yogurt."

Before the program started, Santos only sold a few bunches of bananas a week. She now stocks — and sells — a colorful spectrum of oranges, apples, plantains and sweet potatoes. Meanwhile, other cities have taken notice of Philadelphia’s success. Portland, Oregon; Birmingham, Alabama and New York City are all planning to launch programs closely modeled on the Healthy Corner Store Initiative.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs