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Healthy Food Retail

The opportunity to obtain healthy, fresh and affordable food is important for preventing obesity. Many communities, especially in rural, minority, and low-income neighborhoods, lack supermarkets. Residents in these areas often must rely on convenience stores and small grocers for their food. The supply of quality fruits and vegetables at these retailers is usually low, and they may also be more expensive.

Across Colorado, communities, food producers, and retailers are teaming up to provide healthy food in innovative ways. Communities have developed and implemented plans to increase access to full-service grocers, establish farmers’ markets and produce stands, organize Community Supported Agriculture networks (CSAs), and support mobile vending of fresh produce.

LiveWell Colorado recommends the establishment of a healthy food markets financing initiative with funding and technical assistance to support the economic development of healthy food retailers, including full service grocers, mobile vendors, corner stores, farmers’ markets, and produce stands. See Policy Recommendation #6 on page 20 of the Food Policy Blueprint.

For strategies on how to promote healthy food retail of all shapes and sizes in rural and small communities, see page 19 of the Guide to Integrating Healthy Eating and Active Living into Colorado’s Rural and Small Town Communities.

For strategies on how to use zoning to mitigate unhealthy food retail in suburban and urban communities, see page 15 of the Guide to Integrating Healthy Eating and Active Living into Colorado’s Suburban and Urban Communities.


Comprehensive Healthy Food Retail Resource

The Healthy Food Access Portal, an online resource from PolicyLink, is the entrance to an array of strategies, tools, information, and data for those seeking to launch projects and connect communities to healthy food and economic development resources. It is a comprehensive site with reports, data, resources, webinars, and more on the topic of Healthy Food Access.


Case Studies

How one community worked together to rescue their only grocery store

In Walsh, Colorado, access to healthy food retail became a monumental challenge when the only grocery store in the city closed, following just three months after the closure of the only drug store. Instead of standing by and watching their economy crumble, town business leaders decided to create a volunteer team to lead the opening of a locally owned and operated community grocery store. They offered shares for $50 each to the community and ended up with 300 shareholders contributing close to $200,000 for the Walsh Community Grocery Store, Inc. The rest of the money they needed came in the form of a 10-year no-interest USDA-Rural Development loan, granted through the Southeast Colorado Power Association, for $160,000 to stock the shelves and get the store up and running. Sales reached $1 million in the first year. For more information click here.

How a mobile vendor is bringing fresh produce to the streets

Drawing from the food truck trend, mobile farm stands are becoming popular throughout the nation, and the Gypsy Farm Bus is kicking off the movement in Colorado. Katherine Cornwell, a former Denver city planner, dreamed up the concept of a miniature farmers’ market on wheels that has come to fruition as the Gypsy Farm Bus. The repurposed school bus serves as a traveling garden that cruises the streets of Denver to offer communities an array of fresh, local produce. For more information on mobile farm stands click here.


Models: Programs & Projects

Mobile Markets: Applying the Food Truck Model to Food Access, published by the Arcadia Center for Food and Sustainable Agriculture, details how the Center distributed over $43,000 worth of locally and sustainably grown food products to neighborhoods in the greater D.C. area underserved by traditional groceries.

Wholesome Wave’s Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program brings health professionals and farmers market partners together with low-income families to provide nutrition counseling based on personal health concerns using products that are available at farmers markets.

CornUcopia Place in Cleveland, OH is a multi-purpose space with a café and market selling healthy foods, a teaching kitchen providing nutrition and cooking classes, a harvest preparation station used by local market gardeners, and an on-site orchard.

DC Central Kitchen in Washington DC partnered with 30 corner stores, educating store owners about promoting health and helping stores market and sell nutritious items. In 2011, those 30 corner stores sold over $10,000 in produce.

The Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) provides financial support to projects that increase access to healthy, affordable food in communities that currently lack these options.

A new online farmer’s market, Farmigo, Inc. allows customers to shop for local farm items online and have their orders delivered weekly to their respective food community site, with the produce being harvested within 48 hours of delivery.

A Fresh Start: City Requires Corner Stores to Sell Healthy Produce, an article published by Governing, discusses the health inspection checklist for corner stores in Minneapolis, Minn. which includes specifications for providing and displaying fresh, low-cost produce.

The Sustainable Food Center of Austin, Texas created Neighborhood Farm Stands that provide fresh, local produce at a neighborhood level.

The Second Annual Mobile Market Report, released by Arcadia, provides details on the mobile market’s operations for the 2013 season, highlighting and analyzing the market’s 50% increase in sales and 40% increase in SNAP participation, as well as discussing lessons learned.


Reports: Research, Articles, & Guides

Food Access Scan of Child Care Centers: Identifying Challenges and Opportunities for Improving Healthy Food Access in Colorado, published by The Colorado Department of Public Health, shares results of 28 interviews with child care providers around the state and 28 surveys of Colorado food systems stakeholders. The report sheds light on the key challenges and opportunities for improving healthy food access in Colorado child care centers. The report and executive summary can be found under the Community Resources tab in the link above.

Opportunities to Connect Regional Food Systems to Early Childhood, five regional briefs published by The Colorado Department of Public Health, provide an assessment of current farm to preschool efforts in Colorado based on interview and survey data, as well as present opportunities for furthering the movement throughout the state. All five briefs can be found under the Community Resources tab in the link above.

Healthy Food for All: Encouraging Grocery Investment in Colorado outlines policy recommendations made by the Denver Healthy Food Access Task Force to improve access to affordable, healthy food and stimulate economic development in Denver and throughout Colorado.

The Colorado Health Foundation has funded a number of studies on access to healthy food retail in Colorado that are available for download on their website.

Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters: A Review of the Research, published by PolicyLink and The Food Trust, reveals through a review of 170 studies that improving healthy food access in low income communities is urgent and necessary for creating healthy communities and healthy economies.

Supermarket Characteristics and Operating Costs in Low-Income Areas, a report published by the USDA Economic Research Service, studies food retail stores with different rates of Food Stamp redemption, concluding that it does not cost retailers more to operate supermarkets that serve low-income consumers.

Farmers Markets as a Strategy to Improve Access to Healthy Food for Low-Income Families and Communities, a report published by Columbia University, presents study results on market characteristics that successfully attract low-income shoppers and explores the obstacles that may prevent low-income individuals from shopping at a farmers market.

Access to Healthy Food: Challenges and Opportunities, a publication of the Public Health Law Center, provides an overview of key policy and legal strategies being pursued to reduce or prevent obesity by increasing access to healthy food.

The Growing Nourishing Food Systems toolkit, published by the Washington State Department of Health, guides local governments to use policy strategies to increase healthy eating in their communities through urban agriculture, backyard gardens, and healthy retail.

Effects of Changes in Lunch-Time Competitive Foods, Nutrition Practices, and Nutrition Policies in Low-Income Middle-School Children’s Diets, a study published by Michigan State University, shows when schools offer healthier snacks in vending machines and a la carte lines, students’ overall health improves. See related article here.

Innovations in Local Food Enterprise: Fresh Ideas for a Just and Profitable Food System, published by The Wallace Center, analyses and aggregates a collection of innovative solutions to overcoming difficult food access and food equity issues with a focus on market-based consumer-driven solutions for low-income underserved communities.

Healthy Food Incentives: Cluster Evaluation, published by the Fair Food Network, uses available data to analyze the effectiveness of four different SNAP incentive programs at farmers markets.


Tools & Technical Assistance

The LiveWell Colorado Healthy Eating Active Living Library is a searchable, online collection of codes, ordinances, resolutions, policies, and other tools to help communities create environments that support access to healthy eating and active living.

Colorado Farmers Market Association offers guidance on starting new farmers’ markets, price and food resources for consumers, and a listing of current farmers’ markets across the state.

The Colorado Farm to Market website provides producers selling fresh produce at direct markets with federal, state and local food licensing regulations to help ensure food safety.

CSU Extension provides resources and links to potential funding for establishing and sustaining markets.

The Denver Fresh Food Store Data maps and contains information about retailers that sell food in Denver and in a 1.5 mile buffer around the Denver boundary.

“Developing a Safe Food Business”, an online certificate course developed by CSU, is designed to help vendors selling foods created in their home directly to the consumer navigate the many government regulations and requirements involved.

Colorado Fresh Food Financing Fund (CO4F) offers financing for grocery stores and other forms of healthy food retail in underserved communities throughout Colorado. This statewide fund is anticipated to leverage $20 million in investment and improve food access for Coloradoans.

The 2013 Colorado Farm Fresh Directory, published by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, is the “go-to” guide for consumers and the media to find roadside stands, farmers’ markets, CSAs, agritourism activities and farms/ranches that sell direct to the public.

The Healthier Food Retail Fact Sheet, developed by the CDC, provides public health practitioners with an overview of how to develop an assessment of their state’s or community’s food retail environment.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Guide to Healthy Food Retail provides links to several reports and journal articles pertaining to grocery stores/supermarkets and small retail stores and their role in improving access to healthy food.

The Food Trust has a number of reports on healthy food access available for download on the website, as well as case studies of their numerous school- and community-based programs.

The Wallace Center at Winrock International offers resources for food systems stakeholders including webinars, reports, articles, and tools on topics ranging from healthy food retail to consumer education to funding opportunities.

Nurturing Healthy Food Financing, a free online tool with technical assistance webinars, provides archives of webinars focusing on the many facets of and opportunities for healthy food retail.

Healthy Corner Stores Network provides a comprehensive collection of healthy retail related information, including reports, toolkits, guides, and other resources to help start or improve a healthy corner stores initiative in your community.

Find Money, part of PolicyLink’s Healthy Food Access Portal, explores numerous funding strategies for healthy food retail and provides descriptions of existing funding opportunities.

Connecting Sustainable Farmers to Hospitals, published by Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, shares results of a two year assessment of current and potential health care food markets for North Central region sustainable farmers.