Corner-store program brings healthy food to the masses

IN the food deserts of Philadelphia's low-income minority neighborhoods, where supermarkets are few as well as far between, the typical dilemma store which residents rely on for groceries has been a fat fortress, a high-carb castle, a heart-unhealthy haven for high-fructose corn-syrup drinks masquerading as "10 percent real fruit juice."

But today, if you walk into any one of 580 Philadelphia dilemma groceries, the first thing which hits you is which this is not your mom as well as pop's mom-and-pop store.

Jose Nunez took over Robles Grocery - on the bustling Juniata Park dilemma of G Street as well as Wyoming Avenue - from his mom as well as pop two years ago, shortly before Juan Vila walked in as well as offered him 100 bucks to introduce four healthy foods to customers.

Naturally, Nunez's first question was: What's the catch?

No catch, pronounced Vila, a corner-store recruiter for the Food Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to making healthy, affordable food available to all Philadelphians.

The Food Trust is partnering with the city's Department of Public Health, which was given nearly $840,000 in federal funds to transform 600 traditional Philly dilemma stores into places where uninformed fruits as well as vegetables as well as low-fat, low-sugar, low-salt foods give business healthier choices.

Obesity, which is linked to diabetes, heart disease as well as stroke, is second only to tobacco use in causes of preventable deaths in the United States, pronounced the city Health Department's Sara Solomon, who manages the healthy-corner-stores program.

"Philadelphia has some of the country's highest obesity rates. . . . We know which people who are given access to some-more healthy food will eat some-more healthy food," she said. "So this program is a no-brainer for any health department."

At Robles Grocery, the rack which used to greet business! with a cornucopia of sugary snack cakes as they walked in was moved to the back, replaced by a huge display of uninformed fruits as well as vegetables. Even before they enter, business see the new outdoor produce tables, evidence which Nunez fast exceeded the plateau of four healthy foods.

He's added such an ambitious array of mangos, pineapples, avocados, plantains as well as some-more which he recently qualified for a free refrigeration unit (yogurt! strawberries! uninformed fruit salads!). The Food Trust gives fridges to its most gung-ho converts.

"I'm basically the only dilemma store around here which sells the uninformed fruits as well as vegetables people want," Nunez pronounced excitedly. "I'm always busy. Look at this!"

He picked up a coconut. "That's a water coconut," pronounced Nunez, whose business are Latinos, Arabs, Asians as well as Africans. "I sell 15 to 20 cases of these a week. We flay the coconuts outside. Our business see us. It reminds them of home."

Nunez also grills chicken as well as pork shish kebabs outside as well as sells 400 to 500 a day. Even before you are close enough to see the coconuts, you smell the seductive smoke emanating from Nunez's grill as well as you start to salivate.

"People come here from across the Boulevard," Nunez pronounced proudly. "They come here from Northeast Philadelphia because they can't find the Caribbean produce there which I have here."

Nunez pronounced which about 20 percent of his business is now uninformed food, as well as business is so good, he competes with supermarkets on price. "I sell 5-pound bags of potatoes for $2, bananas for 59 cents a pound, as well as plantains at six for a dollar. Check out the prices at [a supermarket]. Mine are better."

Three miles south of Robles, Nunez's joyful discovery which healthy foods mean healthy profits is reflected at another Vila recruiting success, Julio Alberto Peralta's long, slight store on Memphis as well as Ann streets in Port Richmond.

"When I asked hi! m about introducing healthy foods, he immediately understood what which meant to this community," Vila said, standing amid the pineapples, mangos, peppers, as well as 3 types of brown rice on the shelves, as well as the eggs, lettuce as well as containers of fresh-cut watermelon in Peralta's new, donated refrigeration case.

"In the beginning, a lot of people told me the uninformed food would go bad," pronounced Julio Cesar, a store manager. "When it went bad, I ate it myself."

Vila nodded. "Introducing uninformed produce in dilemma stores is a catch-22," he said. "Owners didn't have uninformed produce because they thought people wouldn't want it. People didn't want it because they didn't see it in the dilemma stores. It takes a little while to change the thinking."

Now, Cesar said, "We sell five cut-up watermelons a week. We sell a lot of apples, mangos, avocados. And bananas? Whoo! We never have enough!"

Fresh fruit salads are a big reason healthy foods are taking over the bustling Christian Food Market on Christian Street near 22nd in the economically as well as racially diverse - part old-school, part gentrified - Southwest Center City.

"Our uninformed fruit salad as well as cut watermelon is sold out every day by 6 p.m.," pronounced Luis Fernandez, son of owner Ramon Fernandez. "They grab it! By 6 p.m., our business are saying, 'You don't have no some-more fruit salad? You don't have no some-more watermelon?' "

The some-more healthy foods he adds, Fernandez said, the healthier his business eat.

"When I first came here five years ago, whole-wheat bread didn't sell," he said. "Now, it's starting good, starting better than white bread. People are asking for 1 percent, 2 percent milk. That never happened before."

Like the Food Trust's other store conversions, Christian Food Market puts its healthiest foods at the front door, where business are greeted by a supermarket-like array of produce. The Food Trust signage in English, Spanish as well as Korean explains the b! enefits of uninformed over heavily salted as well as sugared foods, as well as of 100 percent juice over juice drinks.

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