Ask convenience stores to sell fresh produce
In 2012-13, more than 150 West Virginia convenience stores started offering fresh fruits and vegetables.
“The vegetables and fruits are definitely selling,” said clerk Chelly Nicholson at the Amma Quick Stop. “Customers thank us for having them.”
They got free display baskets from the “Change the Future WV” program of the state Bureau of Public Health. The displays are one way the state is trying to make healthy food more available.
West Virginia – like much of the South – has hair-raising chronic disease and obesity rates. Doctors recommend a fresh, healthy diet, but many West Virginians have no grocery store near their homes. Fresh produce at the convenience store helps them eat the kind of diet doctors say reduces their risk of obesity and chronic disease.
The statewide Little General chain agreed to display and sell fresh produce. Their sales were so good, the statewide Go-Mart chain agreed to do the same.
The fact that fresh produce sells in neighborhoods illustrates two things, Bureau of Public Health staff say: (1) people want fresh produce and (2) attractive product placement can make a big difference in sales.
After the West Virginia Turnpike’s Beckley convenience store put up a prominent fruit display saying FRUIT IS FAST FOOD, “customers were really buying those items,” the store manager said.
Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control ended funding for the Change the Future program nationwide in 2015. But we can still build on their success. Their success stories are at http://www.changethefuture.wv.gov/Pages/default.aspx.
Want to convince your local convenience stores to carry fresh fruits and vegetables?
- Try the National Healthy Cornerstores tactic. Get people to ask the managers to sell fruits and vegetables.
- If you want to take it on as a community project: Change the Future source for ordering basket display racks. Fahlgrens Mortine: https://www.fahlgrenmortine.com / firstname.lastname@example.org / 1.800.731.8927. You can also build them.
- Delridge Healthy Corner Store Project: A Toolkit for Community Organizers and Store Owners. http://ctfwvresources.com/docs/Delridge_HCS_Toolkit.pdf
- Here are resources to help your group work with convenience and grocery stores: http://ctfwvresources.com/healthy_eating.php
- Waive a fee for carrying fresh produce. The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department convinced the Board of Health to adopt a policy that, for each item of fresh produce a convenience store carries, the store’s Retail Food Permit will be waived, up to 100 percent. See if your Board of Health will do the same.
- Become familiar with research on impact of displays. Attractive displays and prominent product placement causes customers to buy more of whatever is well-displayed. Here’s research that proves it: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/placement-and-appearance-of-fruits-and-veggies-help-kids-eat-more
- Changelab Solutions is a national group with many fine materials on ways to curb childhood obesity. Check out their materials on retail food:
- “Health on the Shelf:” contains many strategies for getting fresh food into neighborhood stores.
- Try some of the ideas in Eight Steps to Getting More Fresh Fruits and Vegetables into your Neighborhood
- Financing for healthy corner stores efforts: Changelab Solutions: downloadable at http://changelabsolutions.org/publications/green-for-greens
- Here is the West Virginia fresh produce wholesale distributor list, maintained by the state Dept. of Agriculture.