Charlotte C-Stores Join Initiative to Sell More Healthy Foods

The county-wide program takes aim at food deserts in the area where grocers are reluctant to expand.

February 22, 2022

Fresh Fruit and Veggies

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Mecklenburg County has launched a program that helps local convenience stores sell more fruits, vegetables and other healthy food items, reports NPR Charlotte. The Healthy Corner Store initiative is aimed specifically at parts of the county considered food deserts.

Convenience stores sign up for the program and say that they carry at least six healthy food items, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, protein or water. In exchange, the county provides them with signage and, in some cases, new refrigerators in which to store the food. The stores are responsible for sourcing their own healthy foods.

Prior to the program, La Luna Tienda Latina on Central Avenue in Charlotte, which is co-owned by a husband and wife, spread their fruits and vegetables throughout the store, but now, they’re prominently located all together next to the register in a refrigerator that it received through the initiative.

“We want to be that help to people—that they can come here, and if they want any vegetables or any kind of healthy food, they can find it here,” co-owner Marta Montoya told NPR Charlotte.

Nearly 15% of households in Mecklenburg County are estimated to be food insecure, according to Emma Leon, who runs the county's Health Corner Store program. There have been 24 stores that have joined the initiative and stocked their shelves with enough healthy foods to receive the North Carolina Health Food Retail Designation. Of those, five have received refrigerators from Mecklenburg County.

Mamie Harris, food security supervisor for Mecklenburg County, said the program can help get more healthy options into neighborhoods where grocers have been reluctant to expand.

Convenience stores sell immediate consumption, and NACS data show that 83% of the items purchased are consumed within the hour, including fresh fruit, produce and other healthy snacks and beverages. NACS offers resources for c-store operators to gain new ideas for increasing sales and meeting consumer demand for healthy food choices.