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Maine Program Helps C-Stores Get Healthy

The initiative provides assistance to retailers in stocking fresh produce in rural areas.
December 14, 2016

​AMHERST, Maine – At the Amherst General Store, the middle-of-nowhere location made it an ideal setting for a Maine initiative aimed at bringing fresh produce and other healthy snacks to rural residents, Maine Public Radio reports.

“It’s probably 25 miles to the nearest grocery store, so the people there don’t have access to a full-service grocery store that has healthy produce,” said Sandie Dubay with Healthy Acadia. “Despite the fact this is a very small community with a small population, there is a lot of traffic coming through that stop in to buy quick items.”

For the past two years, Dubay has been working with owner Ralph Jordan to expand his fresh produce section. Now, wicker baskets of peppers, oranges and apples stand next to the front door, alongside wooden shelves holding Maine potatoes, garlic and onions. Amherst General Store also added grab-and-go salads and soups, which have proved popular.

“A convenience store is full of junk food, so you really got to try to balance it out,” he said. This isn’t the first time he’s attempted to sell fruit and vegetables to his customers. “Customers don’t go into the convenience store expecting it. They’re programmed to go in and buy their sodas and less healthy choices.”

But with Dubay and Healthy Acadia’s help, that will change. The nonprofit identified what healthy foods customers want, then gave retailers guidance and marketing materials to spur sales. “These stores have made significant changes by adding the fresh fruit and vegetable displays,” she said. “Putting the fresh fruit right beside the cash register so customers will kind of do it as an impulse buy. Adding 100% whole wheat bread. Placing water [at] a more prominent level, like eye level as people walk in.”