Increasing Healthy Food Availability in Hartford Markets

The Hartford Food System (HFS) and the UConn Center for Public Health and Health Policy (CPHHP) recently received a Donaghue Foundation R3 (Making Research Relevant and Ready) research award to develop a viable plan to increase healthy food availability in Hartford mid-size markets.   To be eligible for the R3 award, applicants had to be current or past recipients of Donaghue research funding.


The goal of this project is to develop a range of strategies to increase consumer ratings of the markets and more specifically to encourage customers to buy healthy foods.  The first part of the project is focused on working with mid-size markets in Hartford because they play a vital role in providing groceries for many urban neighborhoods.  Some residents are unable to access larger supermarkets located outside of the city limits to do their grocery shopping.  Six stores located in various parts of Hartford have agreed to participate in the research.   The  partners selected Alpha 1 Marketing of White Plains, NY to assist them in developing plans to make changes to store environments, purchasing practices, product positioning, and marketing strategies that will help the markets remain competitive while selling healthier food products. The plans will test the effectiveness of these strategies by recording changes in owner uptake of recommendations, increases in shelf space for healthy food choices, positive changes in product placement, quality of healthy foods available, and changes in sales volume.


The second part of the project is getting the consumer to the store and purchase the healthy foods.  HFS and CPHHP will encourage consumers to shop in these stores by providing point-of-service education in the stores and raising neighborhood awareness of the efforts made by the stores.


The Hartford Food System (HFS) is a non-profit organization devoted to food security programs, including urban agriculture, policy, and advocacy since 1978.  HFS is a leader in grassroots efforts to fight hunger and improve nutrition in Hartford’s low-income neighborhoods and receives grant funding from local foundations, such as the J. Walton Bissell Foundation and the Lawson-Valentine Foundation, to work with Hartford’s food retailers to improve healthy food availability.  HFS is also the recipient of a small subcontract award to work with selected city stores as part of an NIH-funded project out of the CT Children’s Medical Center.


Public Health programs at UConn span academic programs, research, and outreach activities.  The Center for Public Health and Health Policy (CPHHP) is a programmatic, research, and policy center.  Husky Programs is an outreach program offered by CPHHP that provides nutrition education and promotes physical activity, along with service-learning opportunities for students.  The USDA currently funds CPHHP to provide point-of-purchase consumer education in urban food stores in CT with education funding that is part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  CPHHP staff supervises and trains students to deliver the educational programming as part of an internship, or as part of their service-learning course work, or as volunteers at a variety of locations such as day-care centers, after-school programs, and health fairs.  Students will be trained to deliver the consumer education at the selected markets.


With this additional funding from the Donaghue Foundation, the groups hope to develop an approach to support medium-size grocery stores in Hartford to develop a sustainable business model for the procurement, display, marketing and sale of fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy and whole grains.  Current models that rely on complete market make-overs or financial incentives for display are either too costly or not sustainable after the intervention cycle.  The point-of-service education messages will be developed by staff from both HFS and CPHHP, and CPHHP will supervise students in delivering the program.

Martha Page, MPH, Director of the Hartford Food System (left), and Ann Ferris, PhD, RD,(right) Director of the UConn Center for Public Health and Health Policy are co-investigators for this project.

Last page update:  December 16, 2016

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