Convenience Stores Host Cooking Classes

Program also bringing fresh fruits, vegetables to c-stores

get fresh

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Wellness Coalition, together with the Central Alabama Regional Planning & Development Commission (CARPDC), has partnered with convenience stores in Montgomery, Macon and Lowndes counties in Alabama to help them offer fresh fruits and vegetables in “food deserts”--areas with limited access to fresh, healthy food--designated by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

In addition to working with stores to set up space, develop delivery plans and report successes, The Wellness Coalition, CARPDC and EAT South have also begun hosting cooking demonstrations to teach customers how to use the fresh produce while cooking meals.

“Some store owners who started on this program with us have found enough success that they have already expanded the program into their other stores,” said Sara Byard, REACH Program Coordinator for The Wellness Coalition. “Local businesses profit and communities gain affordable access to healthy foods. It’s a win-win.”

Cade Gunnells, community development specialist at CARPDC, said, “The program provides healthy options to encourage better choices and eating habits. We want people to reach for fresh foods instead of processed foods, so we are making produce more convenient for those who live in food deserts.”

The Wellness Coalition is able to develop and coordinate these programs with partners like CARPDC through funding from the CDC’s Racial &d Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program. REACH provides grant funding for community-based organizations to help reduce racial and ethnic barriers to good health.

“We chose to do this in a convenience store because those are existing outlets where people get food and they are the closest outlets that exist already that we can work with,” Byard told the Associated Pres. “Getting a grocery store is not the easiest thing to do and the cities have been trying for a while now.”

As far as the overall program, Byard said they have seen positive results.

“We have done surveys of customers, and it has largely shown they are interested in having produce sold in stores,” she told the news agency. “We also asked them if they would like to continue to see stores offer (cooking demonstrations), and they overwhelmingly said yes.”

The results from this program will help determine whether others will be implemented in other areas in the future, said the report.