December 11, 2013

The owner of corner store Jet-In in west Cincinnati joined the healthy food network by supplying fresh produce.The owner of corner store Jet-In in west Cincinnati joined the healthy food network and now offers fresh produce.

In Cincinnati, the Center for Closing the Health Gap began by addressing obesity at the neighborhood level. In some, such as Avondale, major grocery stores had closed leaving corner stores, gas stations and minimarts as the few places to buy food. Avondale residents conducted a food establishment survey to help the center understand the conditions and barriers existing within corner stores. “We saw corner stores with WIC certification that, when you went in, were very unclean and frankly had a lot of expired foods,” said Renee Mahaffey Harris, executive director of the center.

At the center’s request in 2008, the city council compiled a Healthy Foods Access Task Force. They worked closely with partners including the Ohio Grocers Association to engage the grassroots healthy food movement already in place. By compiling local data and firsthand accounts of food access issues in each neighborhood, the task force created a fund dedicated to providing healthy foods to Cincinnati.

After several years of building networks of corner stores, spreading awareness, and gathering financial support, the task force is prepared to announce the location of their first grocery store by the end of 2013. Harris attributes the rapid success of the task force and fund to their emphasis on community participation through surveys, rallies and peer-to-peer advocacy.  “I think that’s why this work has been able to move forward so progressively. It’s not the voice of the center; it’s not the voice just of the task force; it’s the voice supported by the people who are impacted most,” Harris said.

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Community Commons is an initiative of Advancing the Movement, and powered by Institute for People, Place and Possibilities (IP3). In-kind and technical support has come from scores of individuals and organizations around the nation.

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