I’m not a big fan of statistics, but here is some food for thought.
With a quick count in the phone book there are 15 dollar stores, 12 pharmacies and 36 gas stations in Vigo County. This means there are roughly 60 places walkable for people to buy some type of packaged, processed food.
Compare 60 with the number seven — the number of grocery stores. Of the seven, only a couple are within walking distance to a neighborhood.
What do all of these numbers mean? The majority of us are living in a “food desert.”
For the past two years San Antonio, Texas, has been tackling the issue of food deserts head on. It started by surveying local grocery and convenience stores by using the guidelines of the Nutrition Environment Measurers Survey to find out what healthy foods they were selling, if any. The survey showed there is a lack of healthy choices available. With that information, the town decided to tackle the convenience stores first.
The availability of healthy foods in communities matters, for it is widely proven that without proper nutrition childhood and adult obesity will continue to increase.
“We know the health disparities that exist in San Antonio. There are high rates of obesity and high rates of diabetes,” San Antonio Chronic Disease Prevention Program Manager Kathy Shields said.
“We know one of the reasons that these conditions exist is there is a limited access to healthy food and places for people to exercise. Part of our mission at the public health department is to prevent chronic diseases. Within that work we are always looking at how to make healthy food more accessible to people, especially those who are disproportionally affected by chronic disease. And how to make it easier for people to access places where they can be physically active.”
From a grassroots level organizers decided to find store owners who would be interested in selling fresh and frozen produce to participate in the program. Last year they were able to find two stores eager to participate. From there they helped the stores find a resource or source for fresh and frozen produce.
Because of the cost associated with obesity there are a lot of grant opportunities to fund projects of the like. San Antonio officials were able to get grant funding to help store owners purchase refrigerators and freezer units to help store the fresh produce.
The continued partnership between city officials and store owners did not stop there. They also helped them with the promotion of their produce, including signage, advertisements and giveaways.
“If a customer were to buy produce then we would provide an insulated grocery tote bag that they could take home,” Shields said. “We presumed that a lot of the folks who visited the stores walked to the corner store because they are right in the heart of the neighborhoods.”
A lesson from San Antonio
One of the main lessons San Antonio learned from its first year was that fresh produce would sell. But frozen produce did not.
The problem was not so much a convenience factor, but that the customers didn’t know what to do with the frozen food once they brought it home. To overcome this hurdle they started offering scheduled cooking demonstrations outside the store. In addition, they had a registered dietician on site to answer any questions and hand out healthy recipe cards using ingredients available at the store.
“We feel like you need to do more than make fruits and vegetables available in the store,” said Shields. “In many cases you have to teach people how to cook it. It has turned out to be very popular when you actually have someone on site preparing a dish with the produce that people can actually taste and know it is healthy because we have analyzed the recipe.”
Since the inception of the program, they have eliminated frozen produce. They also started working with four new stores. Each new store that came online was located near a different neighborhood to help serve more people. For a store to qualify for the program, it had to go through an application process and meet certain criteria. One of the main criteria was that it could not be located in close proximity to a grocery store.
“We are looking for corner stores that are walkable from nearby neighborhoods. We know in many cases walking is the customer’s main means of transportation. If the individual can only walk to the corner store and that is the only place where they can get their groceries, then we want to make sure there are some healthy choices available,” said Shields.
Organizers have been tracking the produce each store purchases and sells. Shields says the first two stores that signed on with the program could not keep produce on the shelf; it sold out every time. In some cases it would take a little bit more marketing to get people to think about purchasing produce at the store. In the end, it has been the education coupled with the availability of fresh produce that has made the program a success.
A healthier option
“In this day and age, people are inundated with messages about healthy eating and being more physically active,” said Shields. “I think there are a lot of people looking to make a change in the way they cook at home or in what they eat when they are on the run. This is a good way to help those looking to make healthier choices.”
While everything may be bigger in Texas, this program could work right here in the Wabash Valley. A simple, small selection of locally grown, fresh produce can go a long way in helping those looking to set a healthier New Year’s resolution.
Santucci is an environmental freelance writer for the Tribune-Star. Santucci is a volunteer with TREES Inc. and Our Green Valley. Share your environmental stories and tips with her at JaneSantucci@yourgreenvalley.com.
I’m not a big fan of statistics, but here is some food for thought.
- Valley Life
Effort under way to restore Civil War monument to original grandeur; ‘Soldier of the West’ unique in state of Indiana
“How sleep the brave, who sink to rest with all their country’s wishes blest.”
A lone soldier sits atop Forest Hill Cemetery in Greencastle. He is seated with his foot on a cannon of long ago, looking westward, perhaps toward the future he fought for. “He” is a stone memorial, rising nearly 30 feet in the historic cemetery. He represents all the men, young and old, from Putnam County who fought and died in the Civil War, and he is aptly titled “Soldier of the West.”
GRAPE SENSE: Riedel has been creating grape-specific glasses for nearly 50 years
Anyone serious about wine has probably learned the size of the glass can have an impact on the taste of the wine. You’ve probably seen all those different size and shaped Riedel crystal wine glasses in shops or advertisements and thought it was all silly.
TRIED 'N' TRUE: Tea party cookies, lemon and orange
When you get done with these cookies, you will have two different flavors. Our grandkids loved to make the balls and roll them in powered sugar. I can’t remember when I first got this recipe, but it has to have been at least 40 years ago.
Francis Rowe celebrates 95th Dec. 14
Francis “Rowdy” Rowe will celebrate his 95th birthday on Dec. 14, 2013.
Wedding listings: Dec. 8, 2013
Anniversary listings: Dec. 8, 2013
Mr. and Mrs. Donald R. Bowden
Mr. and Mrs. David Hunter
Walk of a Lifetime: Writer discovers views fit for a painting while walking the cliffs of Prout’s Neck, home to famous artist Winslow Homer’s seaside studio
Editor’s Note: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of a day walking the Maine seacoast in search of the great artist, Winslow Homer. Join Mike in January for the fifth installment of this series as he visits Edna St. Vincent Millay’s rural New York farm, Steepletop.
YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Sustainability hubs will leave the world a better place
There is something powerful that happens when people ban together for greater good. In many cities throughout the United States there are sustainability hubs. While each one is uniquely different, they all have the common theme of leaving the world better than when they entered into it.
TRIED ’N’ TRUE: You can’t tell there’s Velveeta in this fudge
At Christmastime we make sweets, candy, cookies, etc. When we were in State Soil and Water, we would bring cookies and candy for the last night at the meetings. A friend of mine, Marie Bunting, brought this fudge recipe and samples.
Anniversary listings: Dec. 1, 2013
Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Copeland
Mr. and Mrs. John Hemminghouse
Engagement listing: Dec. 1, 2013
Wedding listing: Dec. 1, 2013
Heightened Sense of Place: Educators’ efforts helped put geography back on map in schools
Geography transcends dots on a map.
Teachers traveling abroad alongside Terre Haute geographer Dorothy Drummond have experienced the real-life cultures, atmosphere and people existing within those dots. An educator herself, Drummond has organized affordable geography tours of foreign lands for Wabash Valley schoolteachers for many years. The journeys involved more than sight-seeing.
Families to remember children at Dec. 8 candle lighting
Members of the Clark County (Ill.) Chapter of The Compassionate Friends will participate in the Compassionate Friends 16th annual Worldwide Candle Lighting on Dec. 8. The event is designed to honor the memories of children who have died.
Shakamak Park earns honors for 4-H camp
Shakamak State Park was recently honored by Purdue Extension for hosting a 4-H summer camp that has served children since 1931.
The park was given the 2013 Friend of Extension award at the Purdue Extension Professional Development Conference Awards Banquet at West Lafayette earlier this month.
GRAPE SENSE: ‘Today’s Bordeaux’ campaign features more affordable wines
There is an old saying among wine enthusiasts: “The more you drink wine, the more you gravitate toward the French.”
And if you haven’t heard that one, certainly you’ve read and heard people talk about expensive French Bordeaux wines.
CASY to host Orientation I, II training in December
Chances and Services for Youth provides Orientation I training for those interested in becoming a licensed child care provider. Orientation I is part one of two trainings on opening a child care site.
TRIED ‘N’ TRUE: A good bread for dishes like spaghetti or lasagna
I have made this bread for many years. It is wonderful with spaghetti or lasagna. I’m not sure where the recipe came from. We all love garlic bread. If you are just starting to make bread, this is a good one. I have taken this bread to the field, carry-in dinners, just about everywhere.
Anniversary listing: Nov. 24, 2013
Mr. and Mrs. L. Ray Shew
Find your roots at the Marshall Public Library
Marshall Public Library’s Genealogy Department has many tools to help researchers discover their family roots. On-site resources available include a collection of local history books and binders, marriage and probate record indexes, cemetery surname index and locator maps, plat books and land records, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, Marshall High School yearbooks dating back to 1912 and newspapers on microfilm from 1865 to 2012.
Wedding listing: Nov. 24, 2013
Fade to Black: A few local theaters among last to part with century-old 35-mm film
The projectionist behind the first movie shown in the Indiana Theatre nearly 92 years ago would likely feel right at home in that same booth today.
YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Nothing healthy about seeing green in mid-to-late November
Fall is in full force, the skies are gray and trees have shaken their leaves to the forest floor. The outskirts of dormant wooded areas are lined with a thick brush of green. While green may signify a healthy forest, there is nothing healthy about seeing bright green in mid-to-late November. What you are witnessing as you drive by is an invasive species called Asian Bush Honeysuckle.
CHRIS DAVIES: While you’re waiting on a quick fix for weight loss, a couple suggestions …
By now you may have heard about a wonder supplement Cortislim. Annoying Cortislim ads claim to rid your body of unwanted belly fat by suppressing the stress hormone cortisol. Like other supplements before, their claims were not proven.
Sewing Connection auction Nov. 18 to feature homemade items
The Wabash Valley Sewing Connection will have an auction on Monday in the Girl Scout Service Center in Fairbanks Park beginning at 9 a.m. and continuing until all items are sold. Admission is free.
Correctional Facility seeks kids’ books
The Hope Center, a parenting program at the Rockville Correctional Facility, is asking for donations of gently “pre-read” children’s books to use for their Read-to-Me program. Donations may be dropped off at the Rockville Public Library, 106 N. Market St.
TRIED ’N’ TRUE: Serve Pecan Sour Cream Coffee Cake as breakfast appetizer
Last July I was with a friend of mine helping her with her home and dog. I was looking through her cookbooks and I saw this coffee cake recipe. This would be a good recipe for when we have family and friends overnight for Thanksgiving
Rox Alumni gets nonprofit approval
The Rockville Alumni Foundation, Inc. has been approved by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public nonprofit organization.
Donations made to the organization will be tax–deductible. The approval is retroactive to June 27.
Time to submit Komen grant apps by Dec. 15
The Wabash Valley affiliate of Susan G. Komen is now accepting grant applications for the 2014-2015 grant cycle. The deadline for grant applications is Dec. 15.
Terre Foods encourages co-op membership
Terre Foods Cooperative Market is launching a holiday membership drive by offering people the opportunity to purchase a membership gift for themselves, a loved one or a friend.
- More Valley Life Headlines
- Effort under way to restore Civil War monument to original grandeur; ‘Soldier of the West’ unique in state of Indiana