We are excited to announce that MountainWise’s MountainMarkets Healthy Corner Market initiative, through the Macon County Public Health Department, received a $30,000 Food and Farming grant.   The grant money, provided in partnership with The Normac Endowment Fund, the Biltmore Estate Charitable Fund and the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, will be used to strengthen Corner Market initiatives in Cherokee, Clay, Macon, Graham, Swain, Jackson, Haywood and Transylvania counties (NC Public Health Region 1).  

The MountainMarkets initiative seeks to increase the number of corner stores that  offer and promote healthy foods and beverages. We know that by making the healthy choice the easy choice, communities can grow stronger and healthier. The MountainWise region has a long history of self-reliance and independent living. Our region was bringing the farm to the table long before it became a popular movement.  We think that offering healthier, fresher, local ingredients at the corner market just seems like the right thing to do, the natural thing to do.

Typically, Corner Market efforts have focused primarily on urban areas. So it was a little unusual for us to focus on more rural region. However, that didn’t stop us from thinking outside the box and rolling out a pilot program that focused on a rural population.

The MountainMarkets program has steadily gained traction. Money from the CFWNC grant will enable the program to continue to expand to eight additional stores that accept SNAP/EBT payments, bringing the total to fifteen stores. The expansion includes a focus on stocking locally-sourced foods.

Partners in the project include Region 1 County Health Directors, NC Cooperative Extension, the Southwestern Commission and the Western NC Food Policy Council. Connections with farmers through Southern Appalachian Family Farms, ASAP and programs such as Buy Haywood will enhance our ability to connect markets with sources of local agricultural products.

According to Tim Richards, CFWNC’s Senior Program Officer in charge of the Foundation’s Food & Farming Focus area, “MountainWise’s Heathy Corner Market initiative in Region 1 is an effort to provide underserved residents with new options for obtaining healthy foods, to promote greater health equity in rural southwestern NC counties and to encourage economic development by providing new market relationships between retail food outlets and local farmers.”