The Kenton County Plan4Health Coalition (KCP4H) is tackling food systems — and access to healthy food — in northern Kentucky. The coalition is integrating planning and public health to support healthy, vibrant communities for the 40,000 residents living just south of Cincinnati.
Recently, Kenton County was able to address public health through official planning efforts. The inclusion of the topics of health and access to healthy foods in the county-wide comprehensive planning was completed with significant community support.
Building on the momentum of these initial efforts as well as the success of community gardens and urban farms, the KCP4H coalition is increasing the availability of fruits and vegetables in underserved neighborhoods in Covington. With the overarching goal of strengthening connections between rural producers and urban markets—and plans to develop a food policy council framework — the coalition is targeting key corner store retailers to increase healthy food options in underserved neighborhoods.
KCP4H has thoughtfully selected corner stores in the Covington area to invite to join Healthy Corner Stores. Balancing a range of variables, coalition members leveraged data sets from both planners and public health professionals — along with their own knowledge of the neighborhoods — to map access and need.
The coalition’s phased application process means that corner store owners have a chance to talk through concerns, plans, and ideas with coalition members. Placing bananas instead of candy next to the cash register is more than a simple swap. Small changes are about making conscious decisions to provide residents healthy options—and also mean that store environments may need to be updated or that store customers may need to be introduced to healthy foods in a different way.
One of these key store owners is Mark Apseloff of Kimmy’s Korner in Covington. Mark strives to serve his customers and their greater community on a daily basis, which is why he was eager to partner with KCP4H and join Healthy Corner Stores.
During the last two months, Mark and KCP4H have developed a social media strategy to increase his customer base and advertise healthy options. Mark has plans for a healthy-message themed mural to attract customers to the healthy options section of his store and is preparing to introduce new produce when his upgraded refrigeration cases arrive this month. In the near future, Mark will be working with KCP4H to plan programming to encourage youth and families to give his healthy options a try.
Programming for community members of all ages complements the environmental changes happening in the stores. KCP4H is creating incentives for early participation in Healthy Corner Stores for adults by offering in-store sampling and cooking demonstration events. Youth opportunities include “brown bag grab bag” events. The grab bag events encourage kids to sample a mystery snack, introducing their taste buds to healthy options available in store. Healthy Bucks, wooden nickels, will also be distributed to youth. The nickels are redeemable for a nutritious snack from any store member of Healthy Corner Store.
The coalition will continue to develop marketing ideas and to strengthen relationships with store owners in the coming months, making sure that changes supported through Plan4Health will be part of the store environment beyond the grant period.
If you’re interested in learning more about healthy corner stores, food hubs, community gardens — and all things connected to food systems — November is the month for you!
The APA Food Systems Planning Interest Group (APA-FIG) is posting interviews and articles all month to raise awareness about the great food work happening across the country. Check out the latest blog posts from APA-FIG here.
Images: Top—Grow the Cov Urban Farm in Covington, Kentucky; Bottom—Mark Apseloff and KCP4H team at Kimmy’s Korner. Both photos by APA.