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Grant bolsters Mass in Motion Initiative

Date: 9/4/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — Mayor Domenic Sarno recalled how years before he was mayor, while in a convenience store buying a coffee, he would see parents with their children buying them a breakfast of a Twinkie and a soda.

After entering office, Sarno asked Helen Caulton Harris, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, if something could be done and on Aug. 30, the city's ongoing effort to improve food choices was bolstered by a $10,000 grant from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation.

The grant was accepted at a press event at the Pride Market at the corner of West and Avocado streets in the North End, a business that is a model for what the city's convenience stores should offer: fresh fruits, whole grain products and vegetables at competitive prices to supermarkets.

Nicole Bourdon, program director of the city's Mass In Motion Initiative, explained the money would be used to assist five convenience stores located downtown, the North End and Mason Square make a transition to selling healthier, fresh food items. The funding will be used for education and even new shelving to display the various choices.

Bourdon explained that many of the city's neighborhoods do not have a supermarket and many residents use convenience stores as a primary place to shop. The goal of the Healthy Corner Store Initiative is to see a transition to offering healthier food options for sale in 20 percent of the city's convenience stores over the next five years.

She acknowledged that habits can be difficult to break and the campaign will include education of both retailers and the public.

The Pride Market has been part of a pilot project with the YMCA of Greater Springfield and its ACHIEVE (Action Communities for Health, Innovation and Environmental Change) grant on a healthy corner store pilot initiative, although Pride CEO Robert Bolduc explained this market has had an emphasis on offering fresh food choices since it opened several years ago.

Indicative of the evolution of his business, Bolduc noted the name of the store is "Pride Market," something that will happen at other locations. Bolduc said the fresh food selection would also be duplicated at other locations as space allows.

Bolduc said since his West Street store opened several years ago, people who live in the Brightwood neighborhood across the street have given it a positive reception because it carries a variety of food items.

Bourdon called Pride a "forward thinking" company.

Kate McEvoy-Zdonczyk, vice president of Harvard Pilgrim for Central and Western Massachusetts markets, presented the grant and noted she was impressed with Pride since it had fresh fruit on the counter and displayed milk and water at eye level.