Stop & Shop has opened a “Community Wellness Space” at its Grove Hall store in an effort to help lower rates of food insecurity and chronic illness in the neighborhood at the intersection of Dorchester and Roxbury.
The Quincy-based grocer opened the space on Friday, saying it will act as home base for consultations with an in-house nutritionist and a hub for free classes on healthy eating, exercise, and financial planning. The exterior of the space features a 25-foot display of “better-for-you foods” chosen by a team of registered dietitians. The store also has added 350 new products from Middle Eastern, West Indian, and Caribbean cuisine to cater to the community.
A new “Flashfood” program — tested at several Stop & Shop locations outside of Boston — is up and running, too. Through the Flashfood app, the store offers discounts of up to 50 percent on produce, meat, and dairy nearing its expiration date.
Gordon Reid, the supermarket chain’s president, stressed the urgency of the changes at a time when the pandemic endures and nearly a third of Massachusetts adults are struggling to get enough to eat.
“Things are changing in society, and health equities are becoming more and more obvious,” he said. “As an organization, we have a role to play in fighting that.”
Stop & Shop decided to revamp the Grove Hall store after working with the Boston Public Health Commission, which found that the neighborhood suffers from pressing issues with food access. In a survey of residents in the zip code 02121, which includes Grove Hall, nearly 35 percent of people said they did not have enough money to buy needed food during the past 12 months. Fourteen percent said they occasionally went hungry.
Christine Sinclair, the Stop & Stop nutritionist, said the store’s efforts are a way to combat those disparaging statistics. During office hours and pre-booked appointments, she hopes to teach “Community Wellness Space” to read nutrition labels and shop for healthy food on a budget.
Outside of her responsibilities at the store, Sinclair will attend the events of community organizations, including the Yawkey Boys& Girls Club of Roxbury.
“I want to teach kids to be the change agents for their families,” said Sinclair. “It’s about being of service to the community, and in an ideal world, to improve the neighborhood’s health outcomes.”
The initiatives are just a sliver of Stop & Stop’s efforts in the region. It has spearheaded the creation of in-school pantries at Jeremiah E. Burke High School in April and The Rev. Dr. Michael E. Haynes Early Education Center, opening this month. The company hopes to reduce its food waste by half by 2030.
Other organizations have recently taken similar steps. The nonprofit community grocery Daily Table announced in February that it will open a location in Mattapan Station, in addition to its Codman and Nubian Square stores. Project Bread, a food assistance program, also recently debuted a pilot program that provides supermarket gift cards, online cooking classes, and basic kitchen equipment to those deemed “food insecure.”