November 17, 2011, Blue Oregon
A detailed update on two Healthy Retail Programs in Multnomah County, Oregon (Portland Area), both launched in 2011. Multnomah County’s Healthy Retail Initiative has 20 stores in the program, each receiving $4,500 in funding for store improvements. The program takes a comprehensive approach, as described by program manager Rachel Banks: “The initial element is in regards to social marketing, with the County providing free materials to retailers that stock a minimum amount of healthy food items. These include the door signs and shelf talkers, which have the graphic of the apple saying ‘Healthy Options Here.’ The purpose of this element, of course, is to let people know that the store is committed to offering an expanded selection of healthy objects and that they are headed in the right direction. Another element is providing technical assistance, including such aspects that the store may not have previously been familiar with- for example, the correct handling of produce. A variety of trainings to partner retailers are being provided in response to the needs identified by the retailers, including proper food labeling and getting stores certified to accept WIC [the federal Women, Infants, and Children program.] Whole Foods has been an invaluable partner when it comes to helping provide these trainings. And the final element is creating and developing community involvement around the Healthy Retail Initiative, relying on the community served by these stores to help get the word out through the County’s website, collecting stories, and having the community conduct an evaluation of these stores.”
The Village Market is another new Healthy Retail program operating a not-for-profit store with the city’s housing authority and a local social service agency, Janus Youth. Open since June, 2011, the program has economic development benefits as well as health, employing 15 people. The manager states while great strides have been made, a lot of work still needs to happen, including developing a marketing plan and outreach to vendors that carry ethnic foods.