Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Convenient Truth

How weird is this: I didn’t know about an innovative Cleveland project to bring good food to city residents until I saw a reference to it in the national media. The local food scene is my subject and I’m as linked-in, facebooked, and well-connected as anybody but the article in the New York Times about the Healthy Corner Store Initiative was news to me. Apparently it was also discussed on American Public Radio’s Weekend America though I didn’t find out about that broadcast until I did some follow-up research.

It’s an important effort co-sponsored by CWRU, OSU Extension, and the Cleveland Department of Health. The goal is to improve the “food environment” of urban neighborhoods and make healthy products readily available to people where they live and shop. The method is to stock convenience stores, where shelves are typically filled with salty, sugary, high-fat snacks and beverages, with a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Of course, getting customers to buy and eat the stuff is a whole other thing. That’s why the project is also organizing on-site cooking demos and giving away free samples. A long range goal is to source much of that produce from local farms. In a perfect world, those farms would be located in the same communities as those corner stores, with empty land converted to agricultural production. The result would be a grand sustainable closed loop food system that would bring many micro and macro benefits.

The Healthy Corner Store Initiative is a good thing for Cleveland and its residents, and an undertaking deserves attention and support. The country’s already heard about it. Now it’s time to spread the word here.

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