Hopkins Working to to Boost Availability of Healthy Foods at Baltimore Convenience Stores

July 9, 2008 - Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Baltimore

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has launched a program designed to increase the supply of and demand for healthy food items at local convenience stores, the Baltimore Sun reports. Under the Healthy Stores Project, store owners who agree to stock nutritious food items can receive promotional materials, shelf labels and posters. To further promote the initiative, Hopkins researchers offer samples of healthy items to customers and perform cooking demonstrations to educate area residents about wise food choices. The program, in some cases, also provides stores with healthy products such as whole wheat bread and bananas on a trial basis. Supported by its Center for a Livable Future, the university has already begun working with 17 of Baltimore's estimated 800 corner stores for the project. Hopkins plans to use funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to expand the initiative to include 35 stores, with a particular emphasis on stores located near to schools and recreation centers. In addition, the Sun reports that the program next year will expand further to include stores located near 15 African-American churches. The expansion, which will be carried out with support from the American Diabetes Association, also will include workshops at the churches on diabetes prevention. Throughout the project, Hopkins researchers will track sales and interview customers to determine whether their diets change. Reflecting on the barriers to introducing healthful foods in convenience stores, project director Joel Gittelsohn notes that "you have this curious circle where people don't buy the [healthy] foods because they're not available, and the stores don't stock them because they think no one wants them" or that the products will perish too quickly. Acknowledging these concerns, Gittelsohn says the Hopkins researchers "see [their] role as priming the pump a little bit, to say to these stores: If you agree to stock this food, we will promote it. You provide the supply, and we'll work to provide the demand.


Kiehl, Baltimore Sun, 07/09/2008