According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates of childhood obesity have increased by more than 200 percent in children, and 300 percent in adolescents, since 1980. As the CDC notes, being overweight at a young age can lead to major problems later in life, including a higher risk for cancer and heart disease. Brianna Almaguer Sandoval, this week’s Food Hero, is trying to do something about this problem.
Almaguer Sandoval, one of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 2013 Growing Green Award Winners, leads the Healthy Corner Store initiative for The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based organization working to improve nutrition around the United States.
The Healthy Corner Store initiative started with The Food Trust’s efforts to make school lunches in Philadelphia healthier. While that effort was successful in reducing the number of overweight children in Philadelphia, the organization realized that to further reduce childhood obesity, they would also need to improve what children were eating outside of school.
Corner stores (which The Food Trust defines as being less than 2,000 square feet and having four or fewer aisles and one cash register) are a major source of food in many urban neighborhoods, especially ones without supermarkets. Unfortunately, many of them don’t carry healthy eating options like fresh fruits and vegetables.
In her work with the Healthy Corner Store initiative, Almaguer Sandoval helps to stimulate both supply of and demand for healthier food options in Philadelphia. Almaguer Sandoval works with corner store owners to increase the number of healthy food options they sell. She also works with schools to educate both children and their parents about healthier eating options.
Almaguer Sandoval is working to build on the initiative’s success in the Philadelphia area through the nation-wide Healthy Corner Stores Network.
In her words, “My vision for the future is that corner stores will become known as community assets in building healthier, more vibrant neighborhoods, serving as sites for healthy food access, nutrition education, and community engagement.”