Healthy transformation for Covert corner store
Laura is busy—as a single mom of five, she needs to find ways to save time. Her employer, the Citgo Station in Covert, is helping her and its customers in the area to do just that—and eat healthier to boot.
With the help of Be Healthy Berrien, a collective impact initiative supported by United Way, the Covert Citgo is undergoing a healthy corner store transformation. Fresh fruits and vegetables, along with other healthy items, have been added to the corner store’s inventory. This gives customers the option of healthy whole foods amid the typical convenient processed and packaged foods. And, “this saves us a trip into South Haven,” said Laura, who can use her food assistance Bridge Card to buy produce at the Citgo.
This Be Healthy Berrien project, in partnership with the YMCA of Southwest Michigan, was made possible by a grant received through the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. They have been transforming corner stores in their region and were looking to expand the model throughout West Michigan.
The opportunity to partner with the Citgo Station came about through an existing relationship with the store owner, Max William. Be Healthy Berrien’s project coordinator Caroline Schier said, “We were elated to have the opportunity to work with William. His commitment to his customers gave us the confidence that the transformation would be a success in his store.”
Over the past several months, Be Healthy Berrien has worked with William to select a cooler for fruits and vegetables, develop marketing strategies and educate customers. ValleyHUB, of Kalamazoo Valley Community College, has also been involved in the process, by sourcing local produce to the store. Through combined efforts the store now has a full bounty of produce available to its customers.
“The goal is to make eating well an easier option for those living with little access to healthy options. The residents of Covert now have an option to buy fresh fruits and vegetables without traveling outside of town,” Schier said.
This project serves as an example of how the longstanding partnership between the YMCA of Southwest Michigan and Be Healthy Berrien is creating community impact. With this successful corner store transformation under its belt, Be Healthy Berrien plans to continue this work with other corner stores in areas where access to fresh food is limited.
About Be Healthy Berrien
Be Healthy Berrien is a countywide partnership of Andrews University School of Health Professions, Berrien County Health Department, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Spectrum Health-Lakeland, United Way of Southwest Michigan and YMCA of Southwest Michigan. They are working together to reduce obesity and chronic illness by creating healthy places to live, work, learn and play. For more information about Be Healthy Berrien, visit BeHealthyBerrien.org.