Joined by Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., and members of the Louisville Metro Council, Mayor Greg Fischer today opened the sixth and seventh “Healthy in a Hurry” corner stores in two west Louisville neighborhoods where fresh fruits and vegetables are not readily available.
The initiative is part of the Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Movement, which received a $7.9 million federal grant last year to address the lack food security in low-income areas.
The stores are located in the Chickasaw and Portland neighborhoods, where business owners have received federal funds to improve the locations and serve fresh produce.
The Chickasaw location is the Happy Food Mart owned by Muhammad Akbar, who is using approximately $17,000 in grant funds to buy signage, equipment, technical assistance and a first order of produce. The Portland neighborhood store is the Curtis Market, which is owned by James Mitchell, who is using approximately $8,000 to expand the selection of fresh produce and to market the store throughout the area.
Louisville Metro Department for Public Health and Wellness Director LaQuandra Nesbitt says the initiative has become an indispensable tool in creating a healthier city by putting fresh foods in poorer communities.
“This movement has had great momentum,” she says. “When the initiative was started it was seen as a solution to the food desserts that we know exist in west Louisville. And it takes quite a bit of time to secure the resources to have a large grocery chain locate into a particular neighborhood and so we have to find alternative solutions,” she says.
The Healthy in a Hurry initiative helps grocers in neighborhoods not served by a full-service supermarkets, known as food deserts, carry fresh produce and other healthy foods that might otherwise not be available.
A 2010 report found large swats of west Louisville and east downtown neighborhoods lacked fresh produce, but were heavily saturated with fast food restaurants.
Staffing and improvements to the stores are coordinated by the city and the YMCA of Greater Louisville.
“By creating this Healthy in a Hurry corner store in the Chickasaw neighborhood, our city is showing its commitment to food justice in West Louisville,” says Councilwoman Attica Woodson Scott, D-1, whose district includes the Happy Food Mart location. “I am ecstatic that we are investing resources in a way that encourages and promotes healthy living by ensuring that families, especially children, have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”
The “State of the Food” report found that the lack of access to a full-service grocery store is a major hurdle in west Louisville. The study said the city’s West End had an average of only one supermarket per 25,000 residents compared to a one for every 12,500 residents for the rest of the city.
There are no natural food stores and groceries in the west Louisville or east downtown area, where residents also lack access to private transportation.
Nesbitt says fighting for food security at the corner stores level is a strategic advantage, but it has also proved to be financially successful for business owners.
“They’re very prominent in communities and neighborhoods, they’re within walking distance from most residents and so having them have healthier food options for the residents just seemed like a great idea,” she says. “We now with the sixth and seventh we have some of the early participants in the program being able to show and demonstrate that their sales have actually increased for the entire store by virtue of adding the healthier food products.”
Other Healthy in a Hurry stores include Webb’s Market at 944 E. Muhammad Ali Boulevard., Old Farm Boy Market at 1200 Dixie Highway, the Shawnee Market at 208 Amy Street in the French Plaza, the Parkway Food Mart at 1201 W. Hill Street, and at the Berrytown YMCA at 1300 Heafer Road.