Healthy Corner Stores NL

Bringing healthier food options—and better business—to convenience stores.

In 2015, Food First NL teamed up with Dr. Catherine Mah and the Food Policy Lab at Memorial University, along with regional nutritionists and health promotion practitioners with Eastern Health, on the Healthy Corner Stores NL (HCSNL) project—an effort to make it good business sense for corner stores to improve their selection of quality, affordable, healthier, and local food.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the most corner stores per capita, as well as the highest proportion of corner stores in rural areas, of all of the provinces or territories in Canada. Since many smaller communities do not have a supermarket nearby, corner stores play a larger food role in the province than in other places in Canada.

These small stores are central to rural communities as they have always stocked a range of items like groceries, snacks, and other products for everyday use. Convenience store food offerings, however, are often stocked based on long shelf-life and low wastage, meaning that fresher, healthier foods are harder to come by.

Corner stores are a microcosm for understanding how our decisions as a society affect public health. Smaller communities face a balancing act in terms of access to resources, economic development, and well-being. Rural stores have a long history of being more than businesses; of serving as community hubs. A healthy corner store strengthens that role, and needs good public policy supports to do so.

Some of our policy research has looked at how entrepreneurs are inclined to support each other to grow their collective potential here, rather than seeing each other as direct competitors. This, together with small store owners capacity to innovate and respond to the local market, represents a wealth of possibility for building a healthier, more equitable, and resilient food system in NL
— Cathy Mah | Food Policy Lab - Memorial University

Corner stores and partners throughout the food system can work together to help more people find good food without having to make a trip to the nearest grocery store. 

In the spring of 2015, Careen's Convenience, run by Vivian and Gary Careen in the Cape Shore community of Branch, was announced as the pilot store for the project. Food First NL worked with Careen's Convenience, reconsidering and reworking the store layout and products offered, and provided marketing support, food and nutrition education, and technical assistance. Together, the future options for change or growth were reconsidered, and reinvented. 

In 2016, the team took efforts one step further, with the launch of the Pick Me Up campaign. Pick Me Up is a healthy retail branding campaign to promote newly introduced prepared food products and other healthier options through effective merchandising.

The bright and colourful branding is an engaging, visual way to highlight and promote healthier food items, and can be found in use all over the store. The results so far have been promising, and the community is responding well to the in-store chances.

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The Pick Me Up campaign also consists of resources and training for store staff, guiding the use of branded signage for the floor, fridges, freezers, shelves, and individual products. 

Merchandising in food stores often promotes less healthy items. We know that most people won’t reach for vegetables if they aren’t hungry, but they might grab a bag of chips because it’s there. Pick Me Up shows off what stores have available in terms of healthier items.
— Stephanie Pomeroy | Healthy Corner Stores NL

This project demonstrates the power of collaborating across public and private sectors in changing the food retail environment to help people have better access to healthier food.


Funding support for HCSNL has come from Health Canada.