1Department of Population Health Science and Policy, Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 1 Gustave L. Levy Place, Box 1077, New York, NY 10029. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2The Food Trust, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
3Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Perelman School of Medicine, and Center for Public Health Initiatives, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
4The Center for Research in Education and Social Policy, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware.
5Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
6Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Urban corner store interventions have been implemented to improve access to and promote purchase of healthy foods. However, the perspectives of store owners and managers, who deliver and shape these interventions in collaboration with nonprofit, government, and academic partners, have been largely overlooked. We sought to explore the views of store owners and managers on the role of their stores in the community and their beliefs about health problems and solutions in the community.
During 2013 and 2014, we conducted semistructured, in-depth interviews in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey, with 23 corner store owners/managers who participated in the Healthy Corner Store Initiative spearheaded by The Food Trust, a nonprofit organization focused on food access in low-income communities. We oversampled high-performing store owners.
Store owners/managers reported that their stores served multiple roles, including providing a convenient source of goods, acting as a community hub, supporting community members, working with neighborhood schools, and improving health. Owners/managers described many challenging aspects of running a small store, including obtaining high-quality produce at a good price and in small quantities. Store owners/managers believed that obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and poor diet are major problems in their communities. Some owners/managers engaged with customers to discuss healthy behaviors.
Our findings suggest that store owners and managers are crucial partners for healthy eating interventions. Corner store owners/managers interact with community members daily, are aware of community health issues, and are community providers of access to food. Corner store initiatives can be used to implement innovative programs to further develop the untapped potential of store owners/managers.