Fresher Options Coming to a Corner Store Near You


By: Brooke Sassman

A new initiative, Hub City Fresh, will introduce healthier food options to the 51 corner stores in New Brunswick starting in March.

On Feb. 9 at 6p.m., members of the healthy food access work group announced plans for furthering “Hub City Fresh”, which aims to improve options in corner stores and educate residents by hosting cooking demonstrations. The plan was unveiled at a New Brunswick Community Food Alliance meeting, which is held quarterly to discuss tactics for improving the city’s level of food security and health awareness. Representatives shared updates on work groups that included agriculture, food economics, healthy food access, community engagement, membership and operations.

The partnership between Rutgers University, the Mayor’s Office and the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance has garnered interest from several of the 51 stores that occupy New Brunswick’s street corners.

Chris Ackerman, the work group’s study coordinator says that the city’s diverse population plays a large role in the lack of healthy options that are available to residents. The city’s demographic is predominantly that of Latino, Spanish, Mexican Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, which affects the types of food being eaten.

“The different food customs of the different cultures sometimes don’t address healthier items. So we’re not trying to tell people what to eat, but show that there are healthy options available” Ackerman said. “Even small changes can make a big difference.”

Corner stores that agree to participate will begin by stocking four healthy alternatives to items that are presently available. Specific items will be determined once Hub City Fresh officials have officially taken a visual inventory and suggestions for improvement have been made.

A $20,000 Community University Research Grant was awarded to get the campaign off the ground. Funds will go toward paying researchers and providing stores with the proper baskets, shelving, and refrigeration systems. Marketing materials to advertise that they are “Hub City Fresh Approved” will also be included.

Keith Jones, Chairman of the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance, says he feels strongly about the future of the organization. He believes that a lot of great steps, including the corner store initiative, have been taken toward improving the food security of New Brunswick.

“Hopefully we can at the same time make sure that they’re still able to have a business and also become healthier, provide healthier options, be the kind of go-between for us and those residents” he said.

The initiative is quickly gaining momentum now that initial research and visual audits of stores are underway, according to Ackerman. He and his team are hopeful that stores will be on board as early as next month.