Meet PreventObesity.net Leader Corinne Orlando, government relations director for the American Heart Association (AHA). Corinne is working with established leaders in the healthy corner store movement in New Jersey to increase public understanding and support for healthy food financing with a grant from Voice for Health Kids. She is also leveraging her work with the AHA to support policy change at the state level.
- What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
I first worked with obesity prevention a few years ago when we helped send Mobile Farmers Markets to areas in New Jersey that don't have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
I knew that the YMCA and the Food Trust were working on corner stores initiatives, so it seemed like a natural fit for us to work with them. Since they are trying to expand the Healthy Corner Store Network statewide, it was a perfect fit because we would be able to both increase support for healthy food financing through education and outreach as well as help add a policy component, which we thought would really help the movement.
- How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
The New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative is a project of the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids, which is a statewide program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation whose primary goal is to convene, connect and empower community partnerships across the state to implement environment and policy changing strategies that prevent childhood obesity. All five communities that are funded through this program (Camden, New Brunswick, Newark, Trenton and Vineland) decided to focus on Healthy Corner Stores as one of their target areas. In most of these communities, they are still growing their corner store initiatives. Camden has had more success than other areas because they are the largest, with about 38 stores, and secured additional support and funding from Campbell's Soup Company, which is headquartered in Camden. Currently, in New Jersey, there are about 80 stores participating, and we are on track to reach 150 stores by the end of 2015.
- What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
The biggest accomplishment with the campaign has been the site visits with lawmakers, and we have had a good number show up at each store. So far, the New Jersey Healthy Corner Store Initiative has held four events at three different corner stores throughout the state, where we brought in legislators and other decision makers to see what healthy corner stores are all about. At the visit they could meet and hear from the corner store owners about why they participate in this initiative, and the effect this initiative has had on business. One of the visits resulted in the Senator inviting a representative from the American Heart Association and the YMCA State Alliance onto his hour long cable access show to talk about our efforts. I am also very excited about the video that we just produced about the initiative.
- What do you look forward to most about your job?
I look forward to going to my job every day, because I know that the policies that we are working on are helping people who really need help. The policies that we are working on are helping people in underserved communities and children lead healthier lives, and I think that is very important.
- What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?
My favorite healthy snack has always been fruit. Especially cherries, strawberries and grapes.
Each week, our own Amy Stone speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Amy's profile and contact her.