On February 24, the NC Alliance for Health (North Carolina’s statewide coalition working on obesity and tobacco use prevention) released a statewide survey that shows that North Carolina registered voters (70 percent) support the creation of a Healthy Corner Store Initiative as a way of tackling the state’s childhood obesity epidemic. Additionally, a similar majority says that state and local governments should provide training and incentives to encourage neighborhood stores, where people often shop for groceries, to stock healthy foods.
"According to this poll, North Carolinians view unhealthy eating and childhood obesity as the most serious problems facing children in the United States, above physical activity, quality of education, and children not spending enough time outdoors," said Sarah Jacobson, Healthy Food Access Coordinator for the North Carolina Alliance for Health (NCAH) and You’re the Cure advocate. "This clearly demonstrates that it is time to stop talking about this issue and start doing something about it," she said.
"Programs such as a Healthy Corner Store Initiative and Healthy Food Financing improve availability, affordability and accessibility of healthy foods at food retailers within areas of poor food access. This approach would not only remove a barrier to healthy eating, but also create new business opportunities. If the focus also includes healthy foods grown and/or produced in North Carolina, the state could realize a triple win in terms of health, economic growth and community revitalization," said Jacobson.
The poll also found:
· More than 90 percent of registered North Carolina voters recognize childhood obesity and unhealthy eating as a serious problem
· Seventy-six percent of registered North Carolina voters favor state and local governments providing training and incentives to encourage corner store owners to stock and sell more healthy foods and beverages
· One half (50 percent) of registered voters view access to grocery stores in low to moderate income areas in both urban and rural communities as a serious or somewhat serious problem
· The fact that healthy foods are not affordable was identified as the most significant barrier to improving access to healthy foods in both urban and rural areas
· Lack of nutritional education and poor economic conditions were identified as significant barriers to healthy eating
Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, certain kinds of cancer, obesity and diet-related diseases disproportionately impact communities without access to healthy foods. People living in such communities—known as food deserts—often shop for food at corner stores, which commonly sell highly processed foods that are high in fat and low in nutrients. In fact, youth who live near convenience stores have higher Body Mass Indices (BMIs) and consume more sugary drinks than their peers who live closer to full-service grocery stores. Additionally, one study published in Pediatrics showed that more than 40 percent of elementary school students shopped at a corner store twice daily, often purchasing chips, candy, and soda.
"I was particularly pleased that once those being polled learned more about the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, the support level jumped to 76 percent. This clearly shows North Carolinians are ready for action," said Jacobson.
The American Heart Association is working with the NC Alliance for Health to promote a healthy corner store statewide initiative.
For more information about the poll:
o Poll Executive Summary