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Guided Store Tour Planned for April 28
Missouri Ag Connection - 04/21/2017

It seems everyone is talking about good, healthy, delicious food these days. But for many people, healthy food can be difficult to obtain according to Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"It may involve traveling long distances or paying high prices for wilting vegetables and overripe fruit. Research shows that communities challenged with healthy food access face the highest risks of obesity, diabetes, and other preventable food-related health issues," said Duitsman.

Local neighborhood supermarkets can be avenues to improve access to healthy foods, and can also contribute greatly to stronger local economies, especially in rural areas.

University of Missouri Extension, Stone County Health Department, and the Country Mart in Branson West are working together to make a real difference in community health by implementing the University of Missouri Extension's Stock Healthy Shop Healthy program.

The program, aimed at improving community access to healthy food options, also supports higher sales of healthy food for small food retailers.

"The combined effect of in-store and community-based initiatives results in healthier communities for everyone," said Duitsman.

On April 28, MU Extension will offer guided grocery store tours to help families buy healthy, affordable foods.

Participants will practice skills like buying fruits and vegetables on a budget; comparing unit prices to find bargains; reading and comparing food labels; identifying whole grains, and sticking to your budget.

As a part of the tour, participants will receive a $10 grocery gift card, a free workbook with recipes and tips, and a free reusable grocery bag.

Pre-registration is required and can be done by calling Misti or Shyra at Stone County OACAC at 417-739-1130.

As part of this effort, the store manager of the Country Mart in Branson West, Blake Van Boening, has been implementing in-store strategies to improve access to quality, healthy, affordable foods he stocks.

With the help of partners, healthy choices are highlighted by use of "shelf talkers." Healthier choices are stocked in more accessible locations, and customers are receiving re-usable shopping bags to fill with fresh produce and other healthy choices.

MU Extension is offering community nutrition classes, in-store taste tests, and educational store tours. More store shelves are seeing "healthy make-overs" to offer a greater number and variety of healthy choices.

Monica Spittler from the Stone County Health Department believes shoppers are finding it easier to find healthier options in the store.

"Working together with community partners is allowing us to make positive contributions to create a healthier community," said Spittler.

She also believes that involving youth is an important piece of the puzzle. Reeds Spring Head Start, Galena Preschool, and Reeds Spring Boys and Girls Clubs all participated in collage and coloring contests showcasing healthy food choices.

Country Mart in Branson West has posted the winning artwork in the front of their store during the month of April.

Stock Healthy, Shop Healthy is a comprehensive, community-based program that guides any community through a unique approach to increasing access to healthy foods that involves engaging small food retailers and community members and thus addresses supply and demand at the same time.

For more information contact Dr. Pam Duitsman in Greene County at (417) 881-8909. Nutrition information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.

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