Pilot project makes buying healthy food easy

Aug. 31, 2013 @ 09:27 PM

Veronica Terry of Durham is diabetic, and knows she must choose her food carefully.

That’s why she was upbeat Friday when she heard that her favorite grocery store, Los Primos Supermarket on East Main Street, has joined Healthy Aisle project, which offers customers a convenient option to eat healthy.

Los Primos is the first Durham grocery store to participate in Healthy Aisle, but organizers hope it won’t be the last.

It places fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and low-fat snacks at a checkout aisle in place of candy, sodas and potato chips, encouraging last-minute buyers to make the healthy choice.

“I think this is a good idea,” Terry said. “When you go to this aisle, its gives children the opportunity to get a banana or healthy snack instead of candy.”

Healthy Aisle is a partnership with Los Primos, the Partnership for a Healthy Durham and East Durham Children’s Initiative. It’s part of the Durham County Strategic Plan to address residents’ health and well-being.

“The community needs this,” Los Primos owner Miguel Collado said. “There is an obesity epidemic. People need to make healthier choices, and Los Primos can help. As a business owner, I need to pay my bills, but it is also my responsibility to the community to help where I can.”

Collado said that when his healthy-food stand was placed near an aisle Thursday, a surprising number of customers bought items.

“I was amazed at how much stuff had been sold,” he said. “I think we’re definitely going to increase sales of vegetables and other healthy items.”

Erika Samoff, coordinator of the Partnership for a Healthy Durham, said the organization is doing an in-depth evaluation of the project in hopes that it will spread to other Durham corner grocery stores in coming months.

“Stores participating in similar projects throughout the country have seen increases in sales of healthy items, increases in customer satisfaction and no loss of revenue,” she said.

Los Primos customer Ellen Cradle was using a walker when she entered the store Friday morning, and said she was happy to hear about Healthy Aisle.

“I shop here a lot, because I’m sort of handicapped in getting where I need to go,” she said. “I try not to eat a lot of candy, cookies, cakes and stuff like that. I like this idea.”

Echoing that sentiment was Diane Humphrey of Durham, who was buying fresh fruit and vegetables for her bedridden mother.

“If I come into the store and I’m in a hurry, I can just run to one spot now – and I love that,” she said. “I don’t like to shop, so when I come to the grocery store, I like to get what I need and leave. I think this is a great idea.”