By Dylan Goodman
YES! Youth Staff , 15 years old
Asheville, N.C. has a population of about 85,700 and about 20 percent live in poverty. One out of three children don’t consistently eat, and when they do, it’s often not healthy. Some of this may be attributed to food deserts and availability of food. Many low-income areas in and around Asheville don’t provide easy access to healthy options and residents are left with what they can find at the closest corner store. Solutions to problems like these aren’t easy or quick, but it is possible to try and fix this.
Pitt County, N.C. recently started an initiative to bring healthier options to the community. In talking with Diana Vetter Craft, the Healthy Foods System Coordinator for the Community Transformation Grant Region 10, we learned that most of the storeowners were very open and responsive to changing their stores for the better. YES!’s Real Food, Active Living team in Asheville is in the early stages of creating a plan to help bring healthier options to the stores. We have surveyed community members about the healthy food they would like to see in the stores and have sent out letters to storeowners we would like to work with on this project. Later stages include budgeting for new equipment and resources like coolers for fruits and vegetables, as well as working to make healthy options prominent in the stores by putting them near the register where you might find candy bars and soda machines. This can encourage customers to buy the new options and provide incentives to store owners to continue the changes they’ve made.
YES!’s Real Food Active Living team in Charlotte has also been doing work around getting healthy food options put into corner stores and convenient stores. They created a six-question survey that asked people how they felt about the food options offered in their local corner store and if they would like to have some healthier options.
The Asheville team is discussing the idea of having a pilot store adopt these changes earlier than most to show that it’s a viable option for others to follow. We have reached out to four different stores to see if they would be interested in participating in this project. We are looking forward to working with the stores to bring healthier options to the community.