Healthy Roc Grocer initiative highlights healthy options at bodegas, convenience stores

Healthy Roc Grocer program supports city stores that stock healthy options

Healthy Roc Grocer program supports city stores that stock healthy options

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get all your grocery essentials just a walk away from your house? That’s what a new initiative from the city is hoping to promote. 

The Healthy Roc Grocer program supports businesses that stock a certain amount of healthy, nutritious food. These stores get free marketing materials, grocery bags, and a point-of-sale system. They can also seek out other city support, like low-interest loans.

City Council members called this vital for many underserved neighborhoods in Rochester. Some, like the 19th Ward and Group 14621, qualify as food deserts in many areas. 

At the corner of the 19th Ward’s Genesee Street and Frost Avenue, the nearest traditional grocery store — like a Wegmans, a Tops, or even a Walmart — is nearly a 10-minute drive away. 

“Rochester is trying to transform neighborhoods so we don’t have to completely , wholeheartedly rely on solely just supermarkets,” Councilmember LaShay Harris said. “We need to look at how we can leverage the bodegas.”

The city earmarked $200,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to support the program. So far, there are 24 businesses on board. 

One of them is D&L Groceries on Genesee Street. Owner Deloris Hamilton has been providing fresh fruit and vegetables to the 19th Ward neighborhood for over 35 years. 

“We have plantain[s], yams, potato, carrots, etcetera,” owner Deloris Hamilton said. “And green banana, red banana, and I’m just going to market in a few minutes.”

A full-on grocery store participating in the South Wedge neighborhood is Abundance Food Co-op, a cooperative owned by neighborhood residents. 

“I think it’s amazing, I think it’s really good for the people who get to take part of it,” General Manager Lynne Zarpentine said. “I think its great for all of us littler grocers.”

The 14621 zip code is one of the poorest in the city. It’s another drive away from traditional stores, but is full of bodegas and convenience marts. Many of them could sell produce. Convenient Market and Deli on North Clinton Avenue started selling grocery items because of this program, and plans to expand its offerings because of the incentives. 

“We sometimes stop into stores, and we always applaud the stores that are selling more than beer, lotto, and potato chips,” Mayor Evans said. “We want to make sure that our stores are selling more than beer, lotto, and potato chips.”

Evans said that while this won’t replace box stores, the goal is to highlight and support existing bodegas and convenience stores and local grocers which bring quality options to neighborhoods in need.

To see if your business is eligible to become a Healthy Roc Grocer, click here.