(SAVANNAH, GA) Four local stores have joined the HealthMPowers campaign, a project of REACH Savannah-Chatham County, to make healthy food choices available in small retail stores that are often the closest — or only — stores that sell food in low-wealth neighborhoods.
The project is supported by the YMCA of Coastal Georgia and Healthy Savannah through grant funding awarded through the Center for Disease Control’s REACH program to help close the gap in health disparities among African Americans in Savannah and Chatham County.
HealthMPowers works with store owners to encourage and support them in stocking healthier options to go along with such mainstays as soda and chips.
“HealthMPowers is an organization that oversees the Corner Store Initiative,” said Deidre Grim, nutrition program manager for REACH Savannah-Chatham County. “Through the REACH grant, HealthMPowers provides technical assistance and support to corner stores in low-wealth communities to encourage them to provide fresh produce in their stores.”
Targeted neighborhoods include those where many residents lack transportation to more distant grocery options. Services include surveys of patrons to see how receptive they would be, what they would buy if more options were available and whether it would be seen as beneficial.
“The pandemic shutdown has really driven home the importance of access to good food. Even affluent citizens struggled with how to get fresh groceries into their homes during the height of the crisis, so you can imagine how difficult it was for those in lower-wealth communities,” Grim said. “By working directly with the ground-level stores that are such an important part of these communities, we can help build strong supply chains that will make healthy food readily available, even in times of tumult. HealthMPowers can be a significant player in helping communities weather another emergency, whether it’s a global pandemic or just the everyday struggle of feeding a family.”
The organization provides signage and literature and serves as a go-between for the store and the USDA to the extent of doing regularly scheduled taste testings.
Participating stores are:
A-1 Food Corner (formerly named El Cheapo), 902 Pennsylvania Ave., Savannah;
Alive Mini Market, 707 Harmon St., Savannah (temporarily closed due to COVID-19 shutdowns);
Niti Food Mart, 1212 U.S. Highway 80, Garden City; and
Zack’s Quick Stop, 2701 Ogeechee Road, Savannah.
For more information, visit online at https://ymcaofcoastalga.org/reachsavannah or https://healthysavannah.org/about/reach-savannah-chatham-county/
ABOUT REACH SAVANNAH:
In September of 2018, The YMCA of Coastal Georgia and Healthy Savannah were awarded a five-year, $3.4 million dollar Racial and Ethnic Approach to Community Health (REACH) grant from the Center for Disease Control. Through this funding, the Savannah / Chatham County REACH team works to close the gaps in health disparities among priority populations in Savannah and Chatham County in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, and community – clinical linkages. The local project is called HOPE, Healthy Opportunities Powering Equity. Working with over 20 community partners and organizations, the REACH team works to provide equal and consistent access to ensure the health and wellness of our community through policy, systems, and environmental change. www.ymcaofcoastalga.org www.healthysavannah.org
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