New initiative promotes healthier corner stores

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- There's a new way to bring healthier food to some of Memphis' most undeserved areas.

Many neighborhoods in Memphis don't have access to a traditional grocery store, and that's why there's a push to use what they do have to fill in the gap.

WREG discovered how some groups want to turn the table on this problem by using something already in almost every neighborhood.

"Right now, I'm really into zucchini. I got a zucchini spiralizer for Christmas, and I've been making a lot of zucchini pasta, which is really cool because it's low carb," said Chelsea Brown, a LeMoyne Owen College student and vegan.

"I'm very restricted to a lot of vegetables and not so much of the like canned foods and processed foods," said Veyshon Hall, a South Memphis resident and heart patient.

Both Hall and Brown have lifestyles that require eating healthy, which includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

However, living in South Memphis where there are no traditional grocery stores makes access difficult.

The American Heart Association knows that.

"It would be more beneficial to basically utilize what the communities already have, and that's convenience stores and corner stores," said Twanda Wadlington with the American Heart Association.

The American Heart Association's ANCHOR program is teaming up with other nonprofits in the city to convince corner groceries to stock shelves with healthier foods.

The first step is getting residents to ask for changes.

"We were able to provide training around getting individuals to advocate for themselves when it comes to what they want to see as healthier options even if we can't get a major grocery store to come to these communities," said Wadlington.

WREG went into three or four grocery stores in South Memphis before we found one that had anything healthy.

Mike Al-Bafari owns Brothers Grocery in South Memphis. He's not convinced he can make money stocking fresh stuff in his store.

He told us what sells fastest: "Like beer, cigarettes, cigars, cakes, snacks, chips, candies. They don't like no vegetables or things like that."

Some of the groups working with the corner grocery initiative said there are grants and other funds available to help transform corner groceries, so they're trying to spread the word to get more mom-and-pop stores to buy in to the plan.

"Maybe, it's going to work, but it's going to take a minute, I believe," said Al-Bafari.

The corner store initiatives are working in cities like Philadelphia and New York.

Given the chance, those advocating for healthier food opportunities believe it can work in Memphis, too.

"They could make more money and we could eat healthier, if they just change what they're selling," said Hall.

For information on ANCHOR program and getting it to work in your neighborhood, contact the American Heart Association here in Memphis at 901-383-5400 or go to their website.

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