Call it a kickoff to healthy eating and better living for residents in the City of Jackson.
Three locally owned neighborhood convenience stores in South Central Jackson will begin promoting the availability of more healthy, fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables at a launch event on Thursday, April 25 from 3-5 p.m.
Greenwood Food Market, Keyes Party Store (formerly, The Log Cabin) and Stop One will offer and prominently display the produce, some of it locally grown, as part of the Healthy Store Conversion Initiative. This initiative is just one project of the Health Improvement Organization Nutrition Health Action Team’s effort to eliminate food deserts in lower-resource neighborhoods and to help reduce obesity in Jackson County.
“The goal is to make healthy, fresh, affordable produce easily accessible to residents in these neighborhoods,” said Julie Weisbrod, Healthy Communities Coordinator of the Jackson County Health Department. “This program is also about educating the community to make healthier food choices that will help reduce health risks and obesity.”
Weisbrod said similar projects are being carried out all over the country.
“This is the first time in Jackson County that WIC-approved, locally owned convenience stores are receiving this ‘healthy store conversion’,” she added.
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and high in fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, all of which are important for good health. Healthy eating can reduce obesity, reduce the risk of certain cancers and reduce other chronic disease risks.
The Jackson County Health Department, the coordinating agency on this initiative, has worked collaboratively with numerous local and statewide agencies on this project to help create local buy-in and awareness, which will lead to sustainability.
Collaborators include AARP Michigan, Partnership Park Downtown Neighborhood Association, Allegiance Health, Michigan State University Extension office, the WIC Clinic, the Fitness Council of Jackson, the United Way of Jackson County, the Community Action Agency’s Youth Build program, Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, the Home Depot in Jackson, local artists from Armory Arts, students from Jackson Public Schools’ T. A. Wilson School, the store owners and the City of Jackson Planning Commission.
“It’s hard to blame families in some communities for eating poorly when there are few other options available,” said Tom Kimble, State President of AARP Michigan. “This program will add some new options for those seeking affordable, quality food.”
The April 25 launch will feature many activities throughout the day, including food tastings, nutrition education, and physical activity opportunities. Media are invited to attend.
New refrigerators, packed with fresh produce, will be installed at the three stores. Lou Cubille and Jean Wier, local artists from the Armory Arts, have created original posters and murals they will affix to the buildings. The artwork will depict healthy eating and better living.
Outreach Troops from the Girl Scout Heart of Michigan chapter will plant flowers at each store. Soil and flowers were donated by Home Depot.
In addition, the Fitness Council of Jackson’s Rec-Connect program will lead a one-mile walking tour, starting at Keyes, walking to Greenwood and ending up at Stop One. This walking tour is intended to showcase to residents where they can purchase healthy, fresh, affordable foods, right in their neighborhood.
Also at the Keyes store will be the Fitness Council’s Blender Bike, where customers can get on the bicycle and blend themselves a nutritious smoothie. At the Greenwood Food Market, a Group Fitness Instructor of Movement Hoops will demonstrate the Hula Hoop, showing it can be fun, inexpensive and a beneficial exercise.
By the April 25 kickoff event, middle and high school students from the T. A. Wilson School will have painted the Greenwood store as one of their Community Service Learning Projects.
“It has been exciting to watch this all come to fruition,” Weisbrod said. “The store owners have been very cooperative and enthused about this project.”
Photo by Khancafee