Mobile Safety-Net Team Supports Local Coalition to Make Healthy Food Access a Priority
Adding fresh fruit and other healthy options to neighborhood corner stores may seem like a smart and relatively simple prospect. For many small stores that serve urban neighborhoods it may be trickier than it seems which is why the Healthy Corner Store Initiative (HCSI) was formed in 2016. The Initiative addresses disparities in food access by working in partnership with neighborhood stores to offer fresh, healthy foods and to overcome barriers that may prevent them from adding fresh fruits and vegetables in their stores.
HCSI was conceived by the North East Buffalo Coalition, a collaborative group of organizations that formed to collectively address critical neighborhood issues. The coalition, and others like it, was formed with the assistance of the Mobile Safety Net Team (MSNT), an initiative of the John R. Oishei Foundation. The North East Buffalo Coalition identified food access as an important issue and worked to develop the program, engage the local community and educate store owners about the value and the logistics of adding healthier choices in their stores.
With the help of dedicated coalition members, the HCSI has grown to include seven stores and is just hitting its stride. The initiative was recently awarded $118,000 from the General Mills Foundation to increase store owner trainings and community outreach efforts. The funding also enabled the initiative to hire Sheila Bass, an early coalition member, as HCSI Coordinator who will spend more time working with store owners and residents. The Coalition is now seeking additional opportunities to add a food aggregation component that would connect stores with local farms for fresh food procurement.
The diverse coalition that includes government agencies, non-profits and other community based organizations will continue to promote and support the HCSI. The Mobile Safety-Net Team works with, facilitates, and provides support for 15 area communities, including North East Buffalo, to identify and address critical issues facing individual communities.