The Minneapolis Health Department conducted studies which concluded that impoverished areas, and particularly communities of color, had less access to healthy produce within the City. These communities most often use corner stores for daily food purchases, and these stores rarely have fresh produce for sale. As a result, these communities often have disproportionate health risks.
The Minneapolis Health Department teamed up with corner store owners to improve access to fresh produce and healthier foods. The program’s objectives are to (1) increase the inventory of affordable fresh produce varieties in corner stores, (2) increase visibility of fresh produce in corner stores, (3) increase store owners’ knowledge about handling fresh produce, and (4) increase sales of fresh produce in corner stores.
The Minneapolis Health Department first sought out grocery experts from local colleges, universities, and health organizations to procure an operations manager. The managers duty was to create relationships with the store owners and to educate store owners on the skills necessary to procure and handle fresh produce, as well as how to help customers choose healthier food options. These innovative marketing and labeling techniques were designed attract and educate customers, and included: signs and display baskets to draw customers’ attention to healthy food options, training on proper handling to maximize produce shelf life, $200 stipend to use toward the first order of produce, and promotional events to introduce residents to the store’s improvements.
In an evaluation of the program several years after its implementation, store owners reported an increase in the sales of produce and a growing demand from customers for fresh produce. The evaluation stated that it was essential to the success of the program to have a grocer expert, to build relationships with the store owners, and conduct period assessments of the store (staff made bi-weekly visits for the first six months of the program).