Cabarrus Health Alliance

Taste testings: Taking the first step

August 03, 2017

Read the original article from the Independent Tribune by Asma Warrich, Cabarrus Health Alliance.

taste testing

Some healthy tastings offered to customers to sample at a recent visit to a participating market. Photo credit: Cabarrus Health Alliance

Often times, taking the first bite can be the biggest challenge to eating healthy. Preconceived ideas that nutritious foods lack flavor prevent many from taking this initial step. However, taste testings are emerging as a popular approach to dismissing these assumptions. Cabarrus Health Alliance staff are leading some local efforts to get residents to take a bite of something fresh and healthy.

The Cabarrus Healthy Corner Store Initiative, in partnership with Cooking Matters, recently adopted the use of taste testings to spread awareness and knowledge about how to eat healthy on a budget. Cooking Matters is a nationwide initiative that teaches families how to shop and cook on a budget while the Cabarrus Healthy Corner Store Initiative, funded by the Cabarrus Health Alliance Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health grant, has worked with local corner stores to increase and make healthier options more accessible, visible, and convenient since 2014.

While taste testings are often found at larger grocery store chains, the Cabarrus Healthy Corner Store Initiative organized taste testing’s at local convenience stores across Cabarrus county. Over 104 community residents, at eight different corner store locations, participated in this effort. Many of the participating stores are located in areas known as food deserts, where there is limited access to fresh produce and healthy food. Therefore, making initiatives like healthy corner stores essential.

Corner store customers, local neighborhood residents and commuters were encouraged to approach the taste testing station where samples of either a black-eyed pea and corn salad or a yogurt parfait were distributed. Along with the free sample, customers also received a free Cooking Matters grocery bag, recipe booklet and an overview of the healthy options that could be found inside each store. The Cabarrus Healthy Corner Store Initiative currently works with nine stores, three of which recently made new healthy additions to their stores.

Rakesh Gandhi, owner of K & M Corner Stop (440 Kerr St NW, Concord, NC 28025) and Kiran Patel, owner of SM Mart (5501 Poplar Tent Rd, Concord, NC 28027) have increased the amount of fresh fruits being offered at their stores. Gandhi has also dedicated an entire section of his store to canned produce to encourage sales of healthier options.

Francisco Varela, owner of La Mexicana Grocery Store (902 S Cannon Blvd, Kannapolis, NC 28083), has made interior and exterior changes since joining the program. These changes include the addition of new window clings, pennant signs, and posters that promote fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Varela hopes to attract a diverse customer base through participation in the Cabarrus Healthy Corner Store Initiative.

Shopping for healthy food should be easy. Stop by any of the nine locations and visit to learn more about the Cabarrus Healthy Corner Store Initiative.

If you have questions or would like to nominate your neighborhood store for CHCS, contact Asma Warrich at 704-920-1291 or

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