BUFFALO — On a recent Thursday morning, retired Buffalo City Court Judge David Edmunds stopped by Jefferson Avenue Tops Friendly Markets on Buffalo’s East Side to pick up a few items. In addition to his oatmeal raisin cookies, he picked up some nutritional tips courtesy of three University at Buffalo grad students posted at the entrance next to the produce section.
“No matter how old you are, it’s incredibly important to eat three balanced meals throughout the day, and the students pointed this out to me today,” Edmunds said.
The store reopened on July 15 after extensive renovations after a white supremacist targeted the store, located in a predominantly black neighborhood, killing and killing 10 people and injuring three others on May 14.
Since the store reopened on July 15, students in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions Masters in Clinical Nutrition program have been offering free nutrition information and advice, food samples food and shopping tours. As graduate students, they are future dietitians who aim to meet the nutritional needs of the community, now and in the future.
They were at Tops on July 17 and 28 and have four more dates on the schedule. Each day was devoted to a specific theme. For example, heart health was the topic of their first visit, followed by cholesterol.
Students will be in store again from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday (general food); and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on August 26.
The genesis of the project stems from the desire of the community to receive more information on health and nutrition. This is something residents and community leaders made clear when speaking with Tops officials during the store’s renovation after the shooting.
“When community leaders reached out to Tops during the planning stages of reopening and expressed their desire to provide the community with more options, not just from the perspective of accessibility to healthier food options , but also from an educational perspective, we knew a partnership with UB would be ideal for our customers,” said Tops Pharmacy Manager Matt Hamed.
Tops approached Nicole Klem, director of UB’s MS clinical nutrition program, about partnering with the store to provide nutrition education to shoppers. Klem then hired three students from the program, each of whom was appointed to the Alpha Eta Society, the national honor society for the allied health professions, to serve as project coordinators.
“It’s about giving back and practicing the skills we learned for community nutrition,” says Hannah Strassburg, a student in the program who coordinated the project with fellow students Melissa Camp and Jessica Lewis.
“We went over the new store layout, as well as discussed what to look for in the produce, meat and seafood, deli/bakery, frozen food, canned goods, bread, grains and cereals, dairy, eggs, and spreads, and the snacks section,” Strassburg explains. “We also have materials based on this week’s topic and recipe cards relating to this subject.”
“If they have questions while they’re shopping, they can bring the item to us and ask us about it,” Camp adds. “We’re just trying to provide people with all the nutritional resources they want while they shop.”
When offering shoppers quick tours of the store, Strassburg says it doesn’t limit them to certain sections (so-called “perimeter shopping”). Instead, she asks each shopper what foods they like to eat. “It’s about creating a partnership instead of telling them what to eat,” she says. “So many times, especially in the healthcare profession, it can feel more authoritarian.”
They also gave out food samples and have a prize wheel that shoppers can spin.
“When planning for the store to reopen, community members indicated that nutrition was a priority in the new store experience,” says Lewis. “We want to help community members feel comfortable returning to this store.”
Edmunds, the former Buffalo judge, was glad he stopped by one day when the students were there. “I learned the importance of eating a balanced fruit diet, and they taught me how to freeze fruit to make it last longer,” he said.
Of course, being at the site of such a tragic event was a sobering experience for students.
“Obviously it was very emotional to come here for the first time,” Camp said. “I know a lot of students sat in our cars just to figure it all out before they got into the store. The community has been really positive and welcoming, especially the Tops employees – they’re really happy to have us here. Tops started this program because the community asked for more nutrition and health resources, so we volunteered to be there to help. »