San Jose Mercury News
July 2, 2014
City Councilman Don Rocha hoped San Jose could find $250,000 in its 2014-15 budget for the Health Trust’s Corner Store Initiative to provide healthier food to people and to support small businesses. But the city could only afford $50,000 toward the effort.
The Corner Store Initiative is aimed at getting small markets and convenience stores to provide fresh produce, dairy and other more healthy products in areas where larger grocery stores aren’t available. Too often, according to the Health Trust, residents in these areas shop mostly at these smaller markets, which carry mainly snack foods and sugary drinks.
Since January, when the Health Trust announced its five-year plan for healthier citizens along with this initiative, 7-Eleven stores have upgraded their fresh produce and dairy. The Enterprise Foundation, a nonprofit branch of the Silicon Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is providing equipment and technical assistance to small business owners who agree to carry fresh produce.
Based on a successful model in Philadelphia, the program identifies and shares information about produce distribution networks and wholesale markets with competitive pricing and a willingness to provide smaller quantities at wholesale prices. Besides providing additional business for wholesale produce providers, it allows corner storeowners better purchasing power.
In addition, it ties owners to urban gardens that can provide markets with fresh produce that otherwise might not get used. In all, the Philadelphia staff noted their program’s success stems from building relationships with owners, starting small, showing them how easy it can be, phasing in products and providing support and collaboration.
“The Healthy Corner Store Initiative is important because it helps small business owners provide healthier foods to the communities they serve. This is a successful business model because 7-Eleven has rolled this product expansion out nationally,” Rocha said.
While Silicon Valley is known to be healthier than other regions in the county, there are still disparities in disease, food access and income levels. According to the Health Trust, only 15 percent of San Jose’s food retailers offer healthy options.
It also reports that 55 percent of adults and 25 percent of middle school students in Santa Clara County are considered overweight or obese, with low-income students 62 percent more likely to have weight problems.
“Our challenge is to help mom and pop shops that don’t have the same resources as a national chain. I am thankful to the Health Trust for bringing this nationally recognized initiative to our city, and I believe government has a role to play in helping make our neighborhoods healthier and strengthen our small business community,” Rocha said.