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Spurred on by health district, corner stores in Reno begin to provide more fruits and veggies

Canned chili, corn, tomatoes and more sit on a metal shelving unit at a corner store.
Gustavo Sagrero
KUNR Public Radio
Canned vegetables at Vassar Market in Reno, Nev. In the freezer aisle, there’s also a new section specifically for bags of frozen fruits and vegetables.

A neighborhood corner store has begun to provide more fruits and veggies as part of an initiative by the Washoe County Health District to make it easier for people to access nutrient-rich food.

At the corner of Vassar Street and Harvard Way in Reno, there are two things that sell well in Hachib Hossain’s Vassar Market that he runs with his family.

“My good sell right now: beer and foods. That’s my good selling,” he said.

For right now, he’s begun to introduce more canned and frozen fruits and veggies, but there’s also consistent demand for fresh produce, and he sees potential in that.

“When people buy vegetables, they need whatever cooking oil I’m selling,” he said. “Maybe they need more cooking oil, so I could sell that more. They need more spice. Then it’s this and that.”

His store is situated in an underserved community. There’s a grocery store to the west called Marketon, which is a 22-minute walk from the corner store, and to the south is a big-box store, which is a 19-minute walk away.

In a car, it’s a pretty quick drive, but not everyone can or wants to drive.

“And so sometimes they have to utilize their corner stores or gas stations to get their foods to prep their meals,” Amanda Sotos said, who works with the health district.

Sotos says providing access to produce in corner stores like this helps combat obesity in communities.

In Nevada’s most recent obesity report, more than 40% of adult Nevadans surveyed ate fruit less than one time per day. Alongside that, 25% of Nevadans consumed vegetables less than one time per day. The report also found that roughly half of adults don’t participate in any form of physical activity. This, and other factors like stress, socioeconomic status and rest, play a strong role in obesity rates.

Right now, the obesity rate sits at more than 28% for adults statewide and affects one-fifth of kids in Washoe County.

The health district is partnering with Vassar Market, the 7-Eleven on Sutro Street, and Reno Food & Discount Liquor on E. 6th Street, with the goal of expanding to other corner stores. They’ll provide the marketing help and other resources, but ultimately, helping build a new food culture will depend on shopkeepers, neighbors, government officials, vendors and anyone else who wants to expand access to nutritious foods for everyone.

Gustavo Sagrero is a former bilingual reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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