Dear Editor,

It’s easy for many to make a quick trip to a corner store for low-fat milk, cereal, granola bars or fresh fruit to ensure a healthy breakfast for their kids. But what if it wasn’t this simple.

The reality for many families in the Garden state is the nearest grocery store might be miles away and the neighborhood corner store doesn’t carry healthy staples such as low-fat milk, whole grain bread or produce. Often store owners face display and marketing challenges with healthier foods and often lack proper equipment to store fresh produce and other perishables.

The federal government identified 134 “food deserts” in New Jersey where fresh produce and other healthy food choices are not easily available, affecting an estimated 340,000 residents. In these areas it’s easier to find grape soda than actual grapes!

The New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative will bring together store owners, public health advocates, economic development officials, business groups and others who have a stake in improving health and business to study the problem and recommend solutions.

There are many examples of Healthy Corner Store successes where healthy food increased, jobs were created and tax revenue increased. It’s our hope we can expand those efforts statewide and bring healthy food and economic benefits to every community in New Jersey.  

In 2013, New Jersey was one of six states that had an increase in adult obesity rates. Policy and environment changes are needed to allow the healthy choice to be the easy choice for everyone.

 

 

Sincerely,

Howard Levite, MD

Regional President, New Jersey Board of Directors

American Heart Association-American Stroke Association

Medical Director, The Heart Institute at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center