Village Market Partnership LHSAIn a new partnership with Village Market in East Lake, Live HealthSmart Alabama helps residents “Shop Smart, Eat Smart, Live HealthSmart.”

Accessing healthy food is a challenge for almost 75% of Birmingham residents, mainly due to the large number of people who live in food deserts. Without a way to get nutritious food, many people turn to fast food or convenience stores—making them less likely to buy or cook healthy food options.

Katie Ellison is a registered dietitian nutritionist and an Albert Schweitzer Fellow in the university’s Department of Nutrition Sciences whose work examines the effects of cooking and nutrition education on purchasing behaviors in socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.

Ellison partners with the locally based nonprofit Cooking Well, providing nutrition education and hands-on cooking experiences, all of which, since the outbreak of COVID-19, is conducted online.
Bringing Live HealthSmart Alabama into that partnership was a natural fit. Participants in Cooking Well classes will receive a Live HealthSmart Alabama loyalty card that will provide discounts at Village Market in East Lake.

In November, Village Market began offering competitively priced healthy food items labeled with the Live HealthSmart Alabama logo. Director of Information Technology for Village Market, Doug Nielsen, said, “We have collaborated with Mayor Woodfin and the City of Birmingham to provide healthy food and help educate people on how to eat healthy. Now, to further our commitment, we have joined forces with UAB’s Live HealthSmart Alabama and Katie Ellison to provide healthy choices at a very competitive price.”

Nielsen added, “I have worked closely with Katie and her team of nutrition experts to identify all healthy options in our inventory, promoting them with banners and shelf tags with the Live HealthSmart Alabama logo. Customers will be able to easily see how the prices of healthy food compare to less healthy options.”

By Ellison’s reckoning, partnerships with grocery stores in underserved communities are essential: “We like to think of grocery stores as ground zero. That’s where the decisions are ultimately made.”|

“The objectives are to provide guidance in that decision-making process and to make healthier choices more accessible in neighborhoods where fresh-food options are scarce,” says Dr. Jim Hill, chair of the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences.

Ellison and her nutritionist colleagues at UAB will be tracking the sales data to assess the initiative’s impact. Their ambition is to expand the program throughout Birmingham and beyond.