For many, living in a food desert means lack of access to healthy food choices, leading residents to turn to unhealthy and often expensive options.
Nutritious food is essential to good health, and beginning Nov. 5, Village Market in East Lake will encourage people to “Shop Smart, Eat Smart, Live HealthSmart.” The store will feature healthy food choices that are identified with a Live HealthSmart Alabama logo and are available at a discounted price.
Accessing healthy food is a challenge for almost three-fourths of Birmingham residents, many of whom live in food deserts. Without readily available healthy food, many people rely on meals from fast food restaurants or convenience stores and are not accustomed to buying healthy food items or cooking healthy meals.
Katie Ellison, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Albert Schweitzer Fellow in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has devised a way to guide people in making healthy food choices at a grocery store.
“We are what we eat, and we should use food as medicine,” Ellison said. “This initiative will teach people to identify and cook healthy food and help them purchase nutritious foods at a discount. I want to encourage people to let food be their medicine for a healthier life.”
With a need for partners to put her plan into action, Ellison turned to Village Market and Live HealthSmart Alabama. Live HealthSmart Alabama is the inaugural UAB Grand Challenge project, working to transform the health of Alabama through changes in policy, systems and the environment.
Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center, the parent organization for Live HealthSmart Alabama. “This partnership with UAB dietitians and Village Market allows us to teach people to use healthy food to improve their health.”“Live HealthSmart Alabama is driven by three goals: providing access to good nutrition, physical activity, and prevention and wellness,” said Mona Fouad, M.D., director of the UAB
Village Market was eager to partner with Ellison and Live HealthSmart Alabama. Formerly a Western Supermarket, Village Market has been serving the community for over 40 years.
“We have collaborated with Mayor Woodfin and the City of Birmingham to provide healthy foods and help educate people on how to eat healthy,” said Doug Nielsen, director of Information Technology for Village Market. “To further our commitment, we have joined forces with UAB’s Live HealthSmart Alabama and Katie Ellison to provide healthy choices at a very competitive price. I have worked closely with Katie and her team of nutrition experts to identify all healthy options in our inventory, promoting them with banners and shelf tags with the Live HealthSmart Alabama logo. Customers will be able to easily see how the prices of healthy foods compare to less healthy options.”
“Our ability to help people to choose different and healthy options in grocery stores can make a huge difference in the health of our community,” said Jim Hill, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences at UAB. “We hope this Live HealthSmart Alabama/Village Market initiative will be a partnership model that other grocery stores can follow. It can be a win both for grocery stores and for shoppers.”