Research shows demand for fresh foods in neighborhood stores

Salud America releases study encouraging store upgrades

SAN ANTONIO – You might find cilantro and peppers on many store shelves in Hispanic neighborhoods in San Antonio. But according to Salud America, all too often you won’t find the very things that people need to survive the obesity epidemic underway in our city.

“This is the first generation of children who will not survive their parents,” Salud America Director Dr. Amelie Ramirez said. 

Ramirez heads up a project that is being funded by the Robert Wood Foundation and operated by the University Health System.  KSAT 12 has partnered up with the group as part of our Making Awesome Changes series.

Recently completed research shows the impact of offering fresh food to stores that don’t traditionally carry it. The research found that there are one-third fewer supermarkets in Hispanic and Latino neighborhoods. The remaining food stores are more likely to carry Snickers bars rather than tomatoes.

Stores that have taken advantage of city incentives, like the former Nueva Leon Meat Market on Zarzamora, found a huge difference in their customers’ shopping habits. The city helped to fund a refrigerated cooler in the store that was specifically designated for fresh items like vegetables and fruits.

"The customers come in and instead of grabbing that candy or that ice cream, they are grabbing the fruit, the bananas, the apples and the oranges. And the kids like it," store owner Sandra Gonzales said.

In fact, it was so successful, that even after the incentive program was over the store kept selling the healthier choices and kept selling out. The store is now moving to a new larger location so is not open currently.

According to Salud America, those kind of results not only reflect its goals of reducing fatal obesity rates, it also reflects what the organization's newest study reveals about similar neighborhood food stores in other cities. The study shows when offered in food stores, there was a 45 percent increase in milk sales, a 32 percent increase in fruit sales and a 26 percent increase in vegetable sales.

“Parents are very busy. They are picking up a lot of fast foods, kids aren't getting out to exercise as much as they should, so this is one of several initiatives we are rolling out to inform people as to what we can do to get better fruits and vegetables in their community," Ramirez said.

For learn more about fresh food initiatives, visit these links: