Pennsylvania Healthy Corner Store Initiative Increases Access to Healthy Food

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At A Glance

Residents of most low-income urban areas in Pennsylvania have limited access to healthy foods. The Pennsylvania Department of Health partnered with The Food Trust to train community partners how to work with store owners to stock and promote healthier food and beverages. Increasing healthier options makes it easier for community residents to make healthier choices. Over 150 stores serving 890,000 residents in 10 of the most populated cities in Pennsylvania now offer healthier food and beverage options closer to where residents live.

By Kim Mehaffey

Public Health Challenge

Food accessibility and affordability can influence what consumers eat. Compared to most other states, Pennsylvania has a large proportion of residents living in areas with low access to supermarkets, most in low-income areas, according to the 2011 Reinvestment Fund report. Residents may lack transportation to shop at stores with healthy foods and rely on corner stores with less healthy options. Children can visit corner stores walking to and from school. One study showed children bought on average 360 calories in chips, candy, and sugary drinks on each visit. Poor nutrition is a risk factor for chronic diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. In fact, 14% of Pennsylvania adolescents had obesity in 2017, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.


Through the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, The Food Trust trained community partners to help stores improve access to healthy foods and beverages. Stores authorized for the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as stores that are licensed tobacco retailers, receive priority for participation. Participating store owners learned how to stock more healthy items and how to buy, handle, and store fresh produce. They received small monetary incentives for increasing their inventory of healthy items. Store owners received display materials to identify the store as a participant and to guide customers to healthier options.

Promoting healthy lifestyles in a community can be challenging, but the Healthy Corner Store Initiative is a positive movement that provides local children and adults the opportunity to choose healthier options.

- Chelstan Anderson, Harrisburg Area YMCA


Over 150 stores in 10 cities are participating: Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Erie, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Pittsburgh, Reading, State College, and Williamsport. Through the first 4 years of the program, store owners collectively received 237 trainings to guide their adoption of a healthy retail environment. A review of data from a local survey 4 years later shows store participation led to healthy product additions from every food area assessed: more than 85% of stores added whole-grain products, 81% added fruits and vegetables, 63% added healthy protein sources, and 44% added low-fat dairy options. Many store owners are highly engaged, including one who approached the community partner to enroll three of his businesses. These changes in corner stores contribute to increased access to healthy food for 890,000 Pennsylvanians.

What's Next

Community partners are now working with 19 store owners to implement in-store nutrition education, health screenings, and other community events. Store owners receive ongoing training to help maintain the healthy changes in their stores.  In many cities, the initiative is partnering with SNAP-Ed to provide nutrition education, aiding in sustainability. Residents learn about a nutrition topic, do a taste test, and participate in a tour to see the healthy options. Interested shoppers are directed to free health screenings, including blood pressure and body mass index checks. Educating shoppers on nutrition and their health brings attention to the healthier options available in the store.

Find Out More

To learn more, visit  This project was supported by the State Public Health Actions to Prevent and Control Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity, and Associated Risk Factors and Promote School Health cooperative agreement (DP13-1305) and Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Kim Mehaffey
Pennsylvania Department of Health
625 Forster, Room 1000

Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5876

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Web site


The findings and conclusions in this success story are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the funding agencies or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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