The City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District has partnered with community health leaders and business owners in Districts 1, 2, 4, and 7 to promote the sale of fresh, affordable produce to local families. The Healthy Corner Store Initiative (HCSI) began in April 2019 in District 3 and included eight stores. This year, the project will be expanding to Districts 1, 2, 4, and 7 to a total of twenty stores in the program by the end of 2020. “The Healthy Corner Store project has been a great collaboration with council districts, store owners, and our community health workers. We are excited to be able to bring healthy and affordable food to neighborhoods who do not have easy access to large grocery stores,” said Jennifer Herriott, MPH, Assistant Director over the Community Health and Safety Division of the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.
The pilot project in District 3 was awarded the SA Tomorrow Sustainability Award in 2019. This project is a community collaboration and wouldn’t be possible without the work of the Food Policy Council of San Antonio, the San Antonio Food Bank, University of Incarnate Word’s School of Osteopathic Medicine, Big State Produce, and the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s Healthy Neighborhoods program and Community Nutrition team. “The Viva SA Healthy Corner Store initiative is something I am so proud of and gives me hope for our future. This program has been transformative for District 3 and surrounding areas. I started this pilot program to combat food insecurity and bring healthy food into corner stores throughout San Antonio. This access gives people the ability to buy healthy fruits and vegetables at a low cost,” Councilwoman Viagran stated. “When I see my constituents purchasing these healthy foods and being so complimentary of the program, I know this is filling a need and it makes me want to do more. I am happy this program is continuing to grow throughout San Antonio.”
Locations and corner stores were selected based on food desert data (as determined by the USDA’s Food Atlas), acceptance of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits by the corner stores, community health worker (CHW) input, community member feedback, distance from a grocery store, and store owner interest. Healthy corner stores increase healthy food options for local residents by offering accessible and affordable, nutritious choices. The project works by utilizing cost sharing with stores to promote the sale of fresh fruits and vegetables at an affordable price to the community. At the conclusion of the program, the stores have the experience necessary to sell produce successfully without the subsidy. The San Antonio Food Bank provides training on how to market and store produce. The University of Incarnate Word supports the project’s community events and provides business plans for store owners to help ensure sustainability. The owner of one of the participating stores (Kim’s Express), Ahmed Badarpura, said “We are a neighborhood South Texas Merchants Association union store serving local communities by providing them with fresh fruits and vegetables near their residence. This is part of the convenience that we offer. Also, since we have an elementary school nearby, we offer fresh water and fruits and vegetables to kids, also promoting healthy choices. We are excited to be a part of this program! It brings more customers to the store and helps us achieve our overall goal of serving the neighborhood.”