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New signs highlight an array of fresh produce at the Los Compadres Market and Restaurant. HEAC staff built a relationship with the owner over three years.

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Wal-Mart Shasta County

Shasta County Middle School Students Enlist Wal-Mart in Creating Healthier Snack Options for Kids

In 2006, as part of an afterschool program in Shasta County, at the far northern end of California's rural Central Valley, five students from Anderson Middle School—aged 11 to 13 at the time—began taking photographs in and around their neighborhood. They wanted to show what would need to change so that making healthy choices about what to eat would become easier.

Positive changes were already happening in their school cafeteria, but what about other places kids where kids bought food? The students zeroed in on their local Wal-Mart store, the biggest retailer in Anderson, and asked for a meeting with the manager, Tim Trimble. They asked him some challenging questions, including: Would Wal-Mart wish to help prevent childhood obesity and improve community health by promoting healthier food to its customers?

With four children of his own, Trimble was sympathetic from the start and, to the students' happy surprise, invited them to redesign the standard shelf display at the checkout aisle to offer kids healthier snack foods. Wal-Mart staff then built two displays according to the students' specifications, replacing candy bars, chewing gum and potato chips with dried fruits and nuts, granola bars and lean beef jerky.

The students called their project "Kids Make a Stand" and, stepping into new roles as community health advocates, they organized a press conference for the displays' unveiling. Sales were strong from the start and soon the Wal-Mart opened one more healthful checkout stand, along with refrigerated "cold boxes" offering 100 percent fruit juices, low-fat yogurt and fresh fruits and dips such as sliced apples and peanut butter.

"Kids Make a Stand" is just one of many successful initiatives undertaken through the Shasta County HEAC collaborative, which is now working with other retailers in the community to adopt similar practices, including two popular convenience stores directly across the street from a local high school. The collaborative is also developing a special logo that will identify stores as having "Kid Healthy Choices."

As one of six Healthy Eating Active Communities (HEAC) demonstration projects across California aimed at reducing obesity and diabetes, the county is working hard to improve food and physical activity environments for school-age children. Working in close collaboration, the Anderson Partnership for Healthy Children, Shasta County Public Health Department and the five school districts of southern Shasta County are working with youth and adult residents to advocate for policy and environmental change.

Every year, new students join the effort, while several of the original middle-schoolers now serve as peer educators. They have met with the City Council and are exploring interest in and potential support for developing a proposal for community-wide nutrition guidelines. Meanwhile, City of Anderson Parks and Recreation has already incorporated healthy snacks and daily physical activity into its summer fun program.

For more information:

Christine Haggard, Community Organizer, Shasta County Public Health Department, (530) 225-3763,