Winston-Salem corner store owner making impact offering healthy food

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Jesus Guzman owns La Commercial corner store in Winston-Salem. For three years he has participated in Forsyth County's Healthy Corner Store Initiative.

The initiative aims to get small stores in food deserts to stock fresh fruits and vegetables. Food deserts are areas where a large number of people are at least a mile from a grocery store.

"I think between his store and the next two grocery stores, it probably is a mile and that community really does a lot of walking and so his store offers fresh meat and fresh vegetables and fruit," explained Rodd Smith, the Forsyth County coordinator for Health Services.

Guzman is a stickler for eating healthy himself. So when the county came to him with the idea of the healthy corner store he jumped right on it.

"From that day I have customers and I show how they can eat more healthy and of course I have more people that have more produce and I'm very happy because it's like I see the children grow healthy," Guzman said.

Guzman also helps teach people how to cook healthy and use fruit and vegetables everyday.

"If you try to give celery to a guy, they don't eat it cause the flavor is not good. But if you put the orange juice and combine it they take it and they don't know and it's very good for them," he said.

Right now five corner stores are participating in the program. Forsyth County is trying to grow that number and get local farmers involved.

Smith says the store owners they currently work with are committed to bringing healthy food to their neighborhoods.

"The store owners that we have on board, they realize the importance of having that kind of access and that sometimes it may be more expensive to offer it," Smith said.

But Guzman says his business has increased since he started offering healthy foods. He now will try to offer certain vegetables that his customers ask for.

The North Carolina Alliance for Health is also working to get $1 million of state funding to expand the program across the state.

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