Cabarrus

Healthy Corner Store initiative includes colorful mural

Blowing Rock Artist Brenda Councill works on a healthy food mural on the Center City Maxx Grocery on the corner of Spring Street and Cabarrus Avenue in Concord on Oct. 1. The Cabarrus Health Alliance hired Councill to paint the mural as part of the REACH program, which brings healthy foods to corner stores in Cabarrus County.
Blowing Rock Artist Brenda Councill works on a healthy food mural on the Center City Maxx Grocery on the corner of Spring Street and Cabarrus Avenue in Concord on Oct. 1. The Cabarrus Health Alliance hired Councill to paint the mural as part of the REACH program, which brings healthy foods to corner stores in Cabarrus County. Marty Price

At first glance the mural covering the front and side of the Center City Maxx Grocery, at the corner of Cabarrus Avenue and Spring Street in downtown Concord, looks like a produce stand next to a country scene.

It is only when you look more closely that you realize that the sunrise is an orange slice, a tree is broccoli and a boy is riding a bike with grapefruit slices for wheels. You’re seeing healthy foods presented in a different way to illustrate the foods offered inside the store.

World-renowned artist Brenda Councill had been working on the mural for three weeks when she paused for an interview Oct. 22. Specializing in large scale installations, Councill’s work has drawn national and international attention to the area. Her previous works were more abstract, narrative type pieces for institutions that included some metal, sculpted components.

Councill embraced the movement toward realism when painting the healthy foods for the mural in the dome of the Core Lab building on the NC Research Campus.

“That is what put me in the niche of painting lots of fruits and vegetables,” she said.

The 3,000-square-foot mural is in the 100-foot-high dome and was based on the super foods being researched on the campus.

It is all about promoting healthy eating habits.

Brenda Councill, artist

The Cabarrus Health Alliance (CHA) hired Councill to paint murals in its public areas before asking her to work for the Healthy Corner Store initiative – a national program being implemented through the REACH program at the Cabarrus Health Alliance.

Alicia McDaniel, program coordinator with the CHA, said that a Community Transformation Grant – for establishing healthy corner stores in areas where residents’ access to those foods are limited – helped fund the program. Three stores in Cabarrus County were recruited in March of this year to participate.

Each store received merchandising training, signage and advice in increasing the healthy items they offered to their customers. McDaniel said the participating stores were required to accept Snap and Wic, which means they have to offer the healthy items required by those programs.

The other requirement to participate was the store needed to be in a food desert – which means that the residents have a lack of access to nearby grocery stores and food outlets. When City Center Maxx Grocery decided to participate, the building owner, David Fortenbery offered his building and arranging to have it repainted to accommodate the corner store mural.

Business owner Franklyn Peralta said Councill was doing an excellent job on the mural and that the customers were enjoying the attention that it generates.

“It makes everything more colorful,” Peralta said. “It is promoting healthy choices and the customers are selecting healthy foods.”

McDaniel said the CHA would be recruiting four stores in 2016.

“I think in the second year we definitely would like to look into doing another mural,” said McDaniel.

Councill said she doesn’t normally work outside, where she has to deal with the weather and the curious people who stop by asking questions.

“I love the opportunity because I get to interface with people, literally on the street,” she said. “Everyone loved the fruits and vegetables so much. It is all about promoting healthy eating habits.”

Councill finished the corner store mural on Oct. 29 and is headed to New York for her next project.

Marty Price is a freelance writer: martyprice53@gmail.com.

Learn more:

For information on the Cabarrus Health Alliance and the services it provides, go to www.cabarrushealth.org

For information on Brenda Councill and her work, go to http://councill.net

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