Twin Cities C-Stores Embrace Healthy Options

A new study finds that retailers improved access to fresh foods in low-income sectors.

October 25, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS—Four years ago, Minneapolis became the first U.S. city to mandate that food stores—including convenience stores—carry specific types and amounts of healthy foods, Medical Xpress reports. A recent University of Minnesota School of Public Health study investigated the policy’s effectiveness, discovering that retailers are stocking more healthy foods than they did prior to 2015. But the researchers thought the change came about not entirely because of the ordinance.

Published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, the study found a significant increase in the quantity of healthy foods in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, its neighboring city without the same mandate. By 2017, 10% of Minneapolis pharmacies, corner stores, gas stations and dollar stores were in full compliance, with just over half of the participating retailers meeting at least 8 of the 10 standards.

“Healthy options are increasing in corner stores, convenience stores and other limited assortment food retailers,” said study lead author and professor Melissa Laska. “Given that these stores significantly improved healthy food offerings in Minneapolis as well as St. Paul, several scenarios are possible. One, it's possible that the policy had an effect in Minneapolis, and there was a spillover effect to St. Paul. However, it's also possible that this represents a general trend in the marketplace that's not attributable to the ordinance.”

The study also found that having more healthy foods available didn’t spur more customers to purchase those healthy foods. “We still have work to do in changing people's perceptions of shopping in these kinds of stores," said Laska.

Minneapolis officials gave retailers training, consultations, merchandising equipment, low-interest loans for store improvements (such as adding refrigeration space) and in-store visits to help them meet the mandate. As a result of the study, the Minneapolis City Council recently updated the product rules to help retailers comply more easily.