Qualitative perspectives of the North Carolina healthy food small retailer program among customers in participating stores located in food deserts

Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, Stephanie B. Jilcott Pitts, Kathryn A. Boys, Jared T. McGuirt, Sheila Fleischhacker, Alice S. Ammerman, Nevin Johnson, Casey Kelley, Victoria E. Donadio, Ronny A. Bell, Melissa N. Laska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: The North Carolina Healthy Food Small Retailer Program (NC HFSRP) was established through a policy passed by the state legislature to provide funding for small food retailers located in food deserts with the goal of increasing access to and sales of healthy foods and beverages among local residents. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively examine perceptions of the NC HFSRP among store customers. Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted with 29 customers from five NC HFSRP stores in food deserts across eastern NC. Interview questions were related to shoppers’ food and beverage purchases at NC HFSRP stores, whether they had noticed any in-store efforts to promote healthier foods and beverages, their suggestions for promoting healthier foods and beverages, their familiarity with and support of the NC HFSRP, and how their shopping and consumption habits had changed since implementation of the NC HFSRP. A codebook was developed based on deductive (from the interview guide questions) and inductive (emerged from the data) codes and operational definitions. Verbatim transcripts were double-coded and a thematic analysis was conducted based on code frequency, and depth of participant responses for each code. Results: Although very few participants were aware of the NC HFSRP legislation, they recognized changes within the store. Customers noted that the provision of healthier foods and beverages in the store had encouraged them to make healthier purchase and consumption choices. When a description of the NC HFSRP was provided to them, all participants were supportive of the state-funded program. Participants discussed program benefits including improving food access in low-income and/or rural areas and making healthy choices easier for youth and for those most at risk of diet-related chronic diseases. Conclusions: Findings can inform future healthy corner store initiatives in terms of framing a rationale for funding or policies by focusing on increased food access among vulnerable populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1459
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Customer perspectives
  • Food policy
  • Healthy corner store
  • Nutrition legislation
  • Qualitative data collection and analysis


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