New Initiative Will Provide Families Access to Fresh Food

BY BTL STAFF

LANSING - The American Heart Association and the Michigan Healthy Food Access Campaign unveiled a new, statewide program to expand access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The Michigan Corner Store Initiative was created as part of the state budget signed into law this month.

"The Michigan Corner Store Initiative is an innovative program that will provide grants to corner stores in low- to moderate-income areas of the state so they can expand and add fruits and vegetables to their coolers and shelves," said David Hodgkins, government relations director for the American Heart Association. "This will go a long way in ensuring families and children throughout Michigan have access to fresh, nutritious foods."

Right now, 1.8 million people in Michigan - including 300,000 children - don't have access to fresh fruits and vegetables because they either live too far from a large grocery store, or their nearby corner store doesn't stock fresh food.

"A proper diet has a profound impact on a student's academic performance, affecting their thinking, behavior and health," said Lori Adkins, a child nutrition consultant with Oakland Schools. "Each and every school day I see how a balanced, nutritious diet impacts students in the classroom. However, eating healthy shouldn't begin and end with the school day."

"There is no shortage of healthy food to feed Michigan families, but there is often a shortage of places to find it," said Dave Smith, executive director of the Michigan Vegetable Council. "The Michigan Corner Store Initiative will ensure more families in rural and urban areas throughout the state have greater access to fresh foods - including vegetables grown right here in Michigan."

Under the new program, corner stores in low- to moderate-income areas of the state can apply for grants to expand fresh food offerings. Grant money could be used to add new refrigeration units dedicated to fruits and vegetables or for additional shelf space. Stores can also use grant money to add or improve fresh food marketing and signage and for employee nutrition education.

The initiative lays out a series of checks and balances to ensure retailers are using the money as stated. Retailers are also required to apply for the ability, and if approved, to accept benefits provided under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

"We applaud the Legislature for addressing this critical need throughout our state and specifically thank Sen. Peter MacGregor and Rep. Ed Canfield for their leadership on this issue," said Hodgkins.


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