Bringing Healthy Choices To The Corner Store

By Jill Replogle
December 08, 2011

Bringing Healthy Food to the Corner Store

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We visit a liquor store that is trying to provide healthy produce to its customers.

SAN DIEGO -- Ruby Vanegas knows what it’s like to live far from a grocery store with no easy way to get there.

Her solution was usually to shop at the nearest liquor store or corner market and hope they had something she could turn into dinner for her family.

“And what do they sell there? Fritos," Vanegas said in her native Spanish. "All the food we call junk food, unfortunately, and we didn’t have any other choice. It’s like, if I want to eat or give something to my kids, well, at least it’s something.”

Now, through a partnership between public health officials, Chula Vista city leaders and school administrators, some of those stores are moving their junk food aisles to make room for apples, pomegranates, potatoes and cilantro.

And local farmers are delivering the produce directly to stores.

It’s part of a larger effort to reduce obesity, diabetes and other health problems in south San Diego County, which includes Chula Vista. Three out of five adults and one-third of all children here are obese or overweight, according to county officials.

Under the Cilantro to Stores program, local farmers will deliver fresh produce directly to liquor stores in west Chula Vista, where grocery stores are few and far between.

"And we think that’s partly because of the lack of healthy choices,” said Eric McDonald, deputy public health officer for the County of San Diego. “And that’s what this program is about.”

Proponents hope it will be a model for other communities seeking creative ways to combat the national obesity epidemic.

“Really it’s at the forefront of what’s happening in California and across the country," McDonald said. "Recognizing and analyzing patterns of where people buy their food, where people have access to fruits and vegetables, and then trying to match the need with the resources.”