Bodegas to Market Better Health
Commentary by Rupa Ranganathan, Ethnic Strategist, Strategic Research Institute (www.srinstitute.com)
Kudos to New York commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Friednen for lining up bodega owners in the city to join in the health crusade against obesity and the effort to reduce or prevent type 2 or adult onset diabetes.
A report in The New York Times says that while consumers walking into city stores have little trouble finding sweet and salty snack foods, the same cannot be said for healthier fare.
An audit of dairy cases in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick, for example, found that only one in three bodegas sold low-fat milk. With 80 percent of grocery stores in Bed-Stuy and Bushwick being bodegas, consumers had very few options for low-fat milk.
As of Jan. 20, New York had signed up two-dozen bodega owners to participate in its program that includes discounts on low-fat milk and fliers provided by the city’s health department.
While this represents a small step in the colossal fight against obesity, it is one that appreciates the influence of multicultural retail outlets like these neighborhood bodegas and the need to promote healthful items along with standard offerings in these stores, such as cigarettes and sodas.
“Bodegas are essential food providers in our communities, but healthy options are often unavailable,” said Dr. Frieden. “Cutting down on unnecessary calories and saturated fat can prevent diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems. Most people want to be healthier, and even small lifestyle changes – like switching to 1 percent milk, eating more fruits and vegetables and increasing physical activity – can make a big difference over the long term.”
Moderator’s Comment: Are the poor dietary habits of consumers in areas such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick largely due to the lack of healthful products
available in stores in those areas? What other factors are at work and do grocers (bodegas or otherwise) have a real opportunity to use healthful foods to grow their business?
George Anderson – Moderator