December 29, 2017
Grocery stores and diabetes center join forces to encourage healthy habits in northeast neighborhoods
Pop and candy displays once greeted shoppers to Fair Deal Grocery Market and Phil’s Foodway, but thanks to a partnership with the Douglas County Health Department (DCHD), some neighborhood markets and corner stores are getting a makeover.
Apples, bananas and bags of baby carrots now stand in the place of cola and chocolate bars.
Located in Omaha neighborhoods where affordable, fresh food options are few and far between, DCHD’s Healthy Neighborhood Store program is making strides to decrease the risk of chronic diseases often linked to unhealthy diets — including diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity — by increasing availability and affordability of healthy food options.
Show & Tell
One of the most popular aspects of the program is on-site food demonstrations by Nebraska Extension. Assistants show shoppers easy ways to cook with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Using simple recipes with readily available ingredients, customers learn firsthand that healthy foods are accessible, affordable and delicious.
Lisa Williams, a Nebraska Extension assistant, says it’s especially rewarding when customers stop by her demo table to try food samples they’ve never had before. Shoppers often walk away with new ideas to bring home to cook for their families.
In November, DCHD teamed up with Nebraska Methodist College’s Mobile Diabetes Center, offering free non-diagnostic health screenings in the parking lots of two participating stores while sharing tips for healthy recipes on a budget inside.
The mobile clinic provided shoppers with their self-assessment risk scores for prediabetes and diabetes, administered flu shots and calculated body mass index, among other services.
“I like going into different neighborhoods and meeting so many people in so many different situations,” said Echo Perlman, assistant professor of nursing at Nebraska Methodist College.
Over the course of 2017, the Mobile Diabetes Center has screened more than 1,700 people. For many, the collaboration featuring food demonstrations made a visit to the grocery store all the more worth it.
“Two shoppers came into the store and proudly showed their bandaged finger. They seemed excited that they were just tested for diabetes and had their blood pressure checked,” said Shelby Braun, DCHD’s community health educator. “After they were done at the Mobile Diabetes Center, they were encouraging other shoppers to go there too.”
DCHD already has plans in the works to invite the Mobile Diabetes Center back to the Healthy Neighborhood Stores as part of its vision to connect all communities in Omaha to the healthy lifestyle resources they need. Once finalized, DCHD will share the dates on Facebook and Twitter.