Little’s Village IGA is small, but incredibly clean and organized. After working there for more than 45 years, Mike Little knows the South Side neighborhood and his customers. They’re good, hard-working people, he says, adding that many don’t have much money and some struggle to put food on the table.
“Not everyone has a car,” he explains. “There are other stores, but if you’re a 60-year-old woman do you want to walk a mile to go to a bigger store?”
Recently, Mike added more nutritious options thanks to Fresh Foods Here (FFH), a United Way-sponsored program that’s improving the availability of nutritious, affordable foods in Columbus. FFH began after research showed many central Ohioans live far from major food retailers or lack transportation to get to them. This lack of access to healthy foods is a major contributor to higher rates of diet-related health issues in low-income neighborhoods.
Store owners who work with FFH agree to increase their inventory of healthy food and also encourage healthy choices through partnerships. In return, stores receive coaching, specialized assistance, and free advertising. It’s an innovative concept that is now in 17 central Ohio stores. The program brings something extra to his store, Mike says, and shows he cares about his customers and their health.