(SAVANNAH, GA) Six local stores are now participating in the Corner Store Initiative to make healthy food choices the easy choice in small retail stores that are often the only source of food in some of Savannah’s low-wealth neighborhoods. The program experienced challenges during the COVID pandemic, but is now beginning to thrive and new incentives are being introduced to entice more retailers and their customers to get on board.

Healthy Savannah has also been awarded a $10,000 grant from the City of Savannah’s Community Partnership Program to support the current efforts with the initiative.

“I am happy that the City of Savannah is a proud supporter of Healthy Savannah’s Corner Store Initiative through our Community Partnership Program,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson. “This funding will bolster our current efforts to ensure healthy food options are available at corner stores and increase the capacity to reach more stores across our city.”

Healthy Savannah further supports the Corner Store Initiative with the YMCA of the Coastal Georgia as joint administrators of the $3.4 million Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant. REACH aims to help close the gap in health disparities among African Americans in Savannah and Chatham County.

“Both the store owners and patrons love the program,” said Dr. Deidre Grim, Corner Store coordinator. “The owners feel they’re providing an excellent and needed service to the community. At the same time, the customers appreciate the ability to have access to fresh produce.”

The Initiative got underway in 2019 but during 2020, its first four participating stores dwindled to two as the retailers were hit hard by the pandemic. Those stores have since reopened and are back on board, and two additional stores have recently enrolled.

“The initiative has been crucial to find out what food is healthy for a human body, what is the amount that one should ingest, and most importantly having these healthy foods available and accessible,” said Mohammad Abdallah, manager, Zack’s Quick Stop, one of the stores participating in the program. “In the simplest words, this is beneficial healthy marketing!”

There is no cost to join the program and participating stores can accept the Supplemental Nutrition Incentive Program (SNAP) benefits for produce. Grim is also in the process of piloting a program that will help both the stores and the community. Through this effort, customers can double their SNAP benefits for produce, essentially being able to buy twice as much for their spend, while store owners are paid in full for the fresh fruits and vegetable products they sell.

“This is a win-win situation for stores and patrons,” said Paula Kreissler, Healthy Savannah’s executive director. ”We’re currently looking for new stores in low-wealth, low-access areas throughout Chatham County to join the Corner Store Initiative and take advantage of this beneficial opportunity.”

Through the Corner Store Initiative, participating retailers also receive technical assistance which includes help in applying to accept benefits from SNAP and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program. They also receive marketing and promotional support and access to Healthy Savannah’s and the YMCA’s vast network of partners. Stores are also encouraged to work within that same partnership network to host community events and gain exposure for their outlets while becoming more recognized as socially responsible community partners. Healthy Savannah and “Y” team members additionally provide free literature and materials to the stores and assist with signage.

Stores are considered the best candidates for the Corner Store Initiative if they are not located close to farmers’ markets or grocery stores and are in areas heavily populated with fast-food restaurants and unhealthy food outlets. Those neighborhoods also usually have low walkability scores and are populated with residents who may not have access to a vehicle to get to a grocery store.

The six Savannah stores currently enrolled in the program are Nitis Gas, 1263 US-80; Zack’s Quick Stop 2701 Ogeechee Rd.; Shiv Food Mart, 4602 Skidaway Rd.; Chevron, 3014 Skidaway Rd.; A-1 Foodmart, 902 Pennsylvania Ave.; and Eagle One Market, 2120 W Bay St.

For more information on the Corner Store Initiative please visit healthysavannah.org/healthy-corner-store-initiative. Retailers wishing to enroll in this free program to enhance food access should contact Dr. Deidre Grim at grimconsultingllc@gmail.com or Ruby Hallam at ruby.hallam@ymcaofcoastalga.org.

ABOUT THE YMCA OF COASTAL GEORGIA/HEALTHY SAVANNAH GRANT FOR RACIAL AND ETHNIC APPROACHES TO COMMUNITY HEALTH: In September 2018, Healthy Savannah and the YMCA of Coastal Georgia were awarded a five-year, $3.4 million grant called Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health. Awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the funding is being deployed in an “upstream” approach by the Savannah/Chatham County project team to foster sustainable health equity among Black residents in low-wealth neighborhoods. The aim of the local project, called Healthy Opportunities Powering Equity, or HOPE, is to increase the availability of high-quality nutrition; promote physical activity through creating greater access to safe places to walk, run, bike and play; and foster stronger connections between people and the healthcare providers who serve them. Working with more than 200 community partners and organizations, the team is committed to elevating the health and wellness of the community through policy, systems, and environmental change.
healthysavannah.org ymcaofcoastalga.org.

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