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In a heavily Latino part of Kansas that struggled with obesity, one coalition stepped up to find new ways to help the Latino community make healthier food choices. How’d they try to do it? They started to change the local food environment by increasing the availability and marketing of healthy foods in local stores—and it worked.
Awareness: Wyandotte County, Kan., which is 27.1% Hispanic and is home to Kansas City, had a growing problem of obesity, with 41% of school children listed as overweight or obese.
Officials with the Latino Health for All Coalition (funded in 2008 by the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities), were increasingly aware that many residents shop at corner stores or small grocery stores, which do not always offer fresh produce or a variety of healthy options. Rather, junk food and drinks are the most available, easy-to-pick items.
Learn/Frame Issue: The coalition decided that better availability and marketing of healthy food options in local stories were a top way to start creating a healthier community.
Kelly Harrington, an assistant community mobilizer for the coalition, began to research what areas of the county and which parts of Kansas City were in the most need, by looking at the populations around locations of corner stores.
She saw many areas with large populations but few corner or grocery store options.
The coalition wanted to create a way to work with these corner store owners to increase the availability of healthy food in their stores—and to market these items better.
Education: Harrington began to develop an information sheet to give to stores in these areas to explain their intent to create healthier food environments for residents with a new program called Health for All Food Retail Initiative.
Harrington and other coalition members began to hand the sheets to corner store owners in the selected areas. They wanted owners to know that the coalition wanted to help them market their healthy options to residents and shoppers, so the community would be able to find healthy options.
Interested store owners were encouraged to reach out to the coalition for further information and to find out if they would be a good fit.
Mobilization: Harrington and others interviewed interested corner store owners to find out what they were currently doing to provide healthy options to customers and what they wanted to do to have healthier foods.
They also visited the stores in Kansas City and Wyandotte County to assess the resources they had, find out what other equipment would be needed to make the store a better place for healthy foods, and consider if they would be able to rearrange parts of the store to create healthier marketing.
Debate: After completing the interviews/assessments, Harrington decided that they would initially choose one store to test the implementation of healthy foods and healthier marketing program.
Abborotes Delicias, a Latino-owned corner store in Kanas City, was chosen because its owner was very enthusiastic about making healthy changes, and because of its ability to reach many local Latinos.
Activation: The coalition and Harrington began to work with the store owner to discuss what changes would be made in the store. They wanted the store owner to be involved in making the changes to get them invested in the program so the changes would become a permanent way to market healthy options to shoppers.
The owner provided a list of healthy fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and other healthy options that they already sold in the store, but weren’t displaying or marketing as healthy. Although these products were on their shelves, customers would not know unless they asked or went looking for them.
After evaluating what the owner already provided, Harrington asked them to choose some new healthy options from a list that the owner would begin to put on shelves.
Frame Policy: With the store owner’s input, the coalition created a project plan for Abborotes Delicias.
Plans specified called for what stands/displays to order, what signs to make, and how to rearrange the store to encourage customers to buy healthy foods.
Change: Both Kelly Harrington and the store owner approved of the project plan for Abborotes Delicias.
The coalition created signage for the store and in October 2014, they installed a glass door refrigerator, a produce stand, and counter basket to display the fresh produce.
Altogether the group spent less than $2,000 on materials to implement the healthy changes. According to Monica Mendez, a community mobilizer with the Latino Health for All Coalition, funding for the corner store initiative was made possible through a UCLA REACH grant.
Implementation: The store owner and coalition members rearranged the store to more prominently display healthy options.
One new display features several decorated baskets with various types of fruit and a bilingual sign encouraging healthy eating: “Our body is your most priceless possession, take care of it.”
Signs were placed outside of the building to inform residents about the healthy options within. Once inside, there are signs throughout the store pointing out where to find healthy options and why they should choose them. Decals (stickers) with the Latino Health for All Coalition logo were placed on the store’s door and the produce refrigerator. A table tent was placed on the produce stand and by the counter basket to encourage customers to purchase fruit, while tote bags with the Latino Health for All Coalition logo were placed by the produce stand.
Another big change in marketing—an idea from the store owner—was to begin marking the price of produce. The store previously did not label produce with a price, leading customers to think it was too expensive.
But the new signs helped shoppers decide what they wanted to buy within their budget.
Equity/Sustainability: The new signs are both bilingual and long-term, as they do not have prices or dates that require them to be constantly changed.
The corner store owner will be able to use the signs for various healthy foods in the future as they continue to offer healthy products to customers.
The coalition will continue to work with the store to make sure they are keeping up with signs/changes.
The coalition has future plans to implement this type of healthy changes and marketing into other corner stores and possibly restaurants.
They want people to know that there are healthy options in their community, no matter where they live and what language they speak.
Once they provide more stores with healthy choices and marketing, the coalition plans on creating a map of where these healthy stores can be located. They want to provide this as a resource to residents of Wyandotte County and Kansas City in Kansas so they can find healthy options in their communities.
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By The Numbers
This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.