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Down On the Corner

March 9, 2012 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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Last week Andrea wrote about the challenges of eating on a time budget and how, once she tired of the healthy vending machine options available, she picked up chocolate milk and a banana in a crunch at the corner store. This week Dean expands on the topic of healthy choices at the corner store.

Let's play a little word association game - which descriptions come to mind when you think about the "corner store" near you?

Match the item on the left with the options on the right.

Corner Store a) Convenience
b) Local business
c) Candy and cigarettes
d) Healthy foods
e) All of the above
f) Some of the above

So, which option did you pick? Would it surprise you to know that "all of the above" is a right answer? While most corner stores haven't built a reputation as being the place to go for healthy foods, I think this is a missed opportunity, and I'm not the only one. In an earlier posting I described how a new Healthy Convenience Store Initiative is taking root in BC. The Western Convenience Store Association aims to provide nutrition information for ready-to-eat unpackaged foods and increase the floor and shelf space for healthy food and drink options at participating stores.

While I don't expect to see the candy, sugary drinks and other foods that are high in sugar or salt and low in nutrition swept off the shelves, it's a fact that stores sell the products people want to buy. So if more customers start asking for and buying, healthier foods and drinks, they create the market conditions for change at the store level.

I was inspired to read about a Healthy Corner Stores and Bodegas movement in the United States. There are a number of very positive examples of corner stores working with community members and public health to reorient the store to become a more vibrant and healthy place in the community. Here in BC, the Healthy Convenience Store Initiative is driving healthier options onto shelves. For example, some stores have started offering Health Check approved heat-and-eat meals in their cooler. Check out your local convenience store to see what's available and if you don't see what you want, ask for it.

Change can happen. I've noticed that the corner store near my home has been improving their selection lately and have increasingly found myself there after hours picking up some milk and cereal for breakfast the next day or grabbing a few last minute ingredients for dinner. You can't beat 24 hour convenience and it's just a couple blocks away!

Have you seen positive changes happening at your local convenience store?

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