Food deserts, areas that lack full-service grocery stores, may contribute to rising rates of obesity and chronic diseases among low-income and racial/ethnic minority residents. Our corner store project, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative, aimed to increase availability of healthful foods in food deserts in Nashville, Tennessee.
We identified 4 food deserts in which most residents are low-income and racially and ethnically diverse. Our objectives were to develop an approach to increase availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat or nonfat milk, and 100% whole-wheat bread in Nashville’s food deserts and to engage community members to inform our strategy.
Five corner stores located in food deserts met inclusion criteria for our intervention. We then conducted community listening sessions, proprietor surveys, store audits, and customer-intercept surveys to identify needs, challenges to retailing the products, and potential intervention strategies.
Few stores offered fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, low-fat or nonfat milk, or 100% whole-wheat bread, and none stocked items from all 4 categories. Major barriers to retailing healthful options identified by community members are mistrust of store owners, history of poor-quality produce, and limited familiarity with healthful options. Store owners identified neighborhood crime as the major barrier. We used community input to develop strategies.
Engaging community residents and understanding neighborhood context is critical to developing strategies that increase access to healthful foods in corner stores.