Program Takes Aim at 'Whoa' Products in C-Stores

Florida Department of Health, others seek to “downplay unhealthy temptations”

Florida Department of Health go slow whoa convenience-store products

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. -- The Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Broward County, Broward Regional Health Planning Council and the YMCA of South Florida have teamed up to combat children’s unhealthy food, beverage and other choices.

They have created a youth-led program that enlists owners of convenience stores and other retailers near schools to emphasize healthy products and downplay the unhealthy temptations posed by various products, citing “cigarettes, mini-cigars, candy, junk food and sodas.”

Six stores have signed up in the initial stage, reported South Florida Caribbean News.

The Good Neighbor Store Initiative is not asking merchants to stop selling the items, just to give healthier options more prominent locations on the shelves, said Dr. Paula Thaqi, director of DOH-Broward. Stores that cooperate fully may eligible for grants of up to $10,000 from the Health Foundation of South Florida.

“We want to give them a number of different incentives to make the stores a healthier environment for the community,” she said.

The project will deploy teams of students to visit stores, assess the situation and suggest ways to reduce the negative influences of unhealthy products and kid-targeting advertising. The project is part of the Eat Smart Broward movement in BRHPC’s Transforming Our Community’s Health (TOUCH) Initiative, which is funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

The project began earlier this year and is being implemented in middle and high schools. Kids have been trained in “Go, Slow, Whoa” system, which rates foods on a scale of healthy (full of nutrition) to unhealthy (high-sugar or highly processed foods and beverages). They also are members of SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco).

TOUCH and DOH-Broward identified 40 stores near schools that could be targeted.

The next step is for a team of students to visit each store and make recommendations. Suggestions could include moving unhealthy food to the back of the store, offering more healthy foods in the front of the store, and dropping or downplaying tobacco ads.

In January, each team plans to present their findings to the community and city officials, said the report.

The initiative is similar to the national Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which works with the private sector and PHA Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama to make healthier choices easier for consumers.