Alliance for Community Transformations and Elm St. Market Bring Fit and Healthy Options to Bennington


02 July 2012
BENNINGTON — The Alliance for Community Transformations of SVHC (ACT) has joined forces with the Elm Street Market on Dewey and Elm Sts. in Bennington to offer Fit & Healthy options for community members.
Fit & Healthy is a program sponsored by the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) designed to create a new type of retail environment where visitors to independent grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas stations in the state will be encouraged to make healthier choices. Store owners are highlighting healthy food and beverage choices and discourage tobacco and alcohol use.
The project came about after the VDH interviewed owners and managers in 15 Vermont stores to get their perspective on creating healthier store environments. Ideas include raising alcohol and tobacco signs to be at adult eye level; placing water and low-calorie beverages in easy-to-reach locations; making sure that soda -like alcoholic beverages are not displayed near drinks marketed to youth; and recognizing that some customers are looking for local, healthier options instead of pre-packaged goods.
“[Tobacco and alcohol] advertising and in-store displays have the potential to make tobacco and alcohol seem ‘normal’ to kids,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen. “The community coalitions are working with owners to make these stores healthier places to shop and to make the healthy choice, the easier choice.”
“Elm Street Market is setting a positive standard for other small retailers in our community,” said Kiah Morris, coordinator of the ACT coalition.
“Our goal is to show owners and managers that small changes can make a big impact on the overall health of the community,” Morris continued. “Highlighting healthier choices can help improve their bottom line, too.”
The ACT coalition performed their own surveys in the Bennington area during summer and fall of 2011. Those surveys showed that up to 70 percent of residents would prefer to see small stores lower the number of tobacco and alcohol ads on display. In addition, the majority indicated that they would purchase fruits and vegetables from small retailers if the produce is of good quality. Overall, people would choose a store designated as a healthy retailer over another that was not.
ACT coalitionmembers are supporting Bennington stores with Fit & Healthy materials such as posters that show real Vermonters engaged in fun and healthy activities. The materials emphasize that making small healthy choices every day can add up to better health.
Elm Street Market is the first privately-owned store in Bennington to earn the Fit & Healthy designation. The store has changed its tobacco displays, committed to displaying fewer tobacco and alcohol advertisements, and now carries a wide variety of fresh produce and healthy food items. They are also becoming eligible to accept WIC and 3Squares VT EBT in the future.
“This program is a perfect fit for what we are doing here as a store and the kind of neighborhood business we wish to be,” says Elm Street Market Owner Ted Cutsumpas.
To find out more about the Fit and Healthy program in the Bennington area, contact Kiah Morris at (802) 447-5425 or, or visit
The Alliance for Community Transformations at SVHC (ACT), formerly Tobacco-Free Community Partners, is a regional source of education on better health anda prevention and connection network of health advocates, leaders, local businesses, and community members. Its mission is to empower, mobilize, and inspire local communities to act in collaboration towards greater health and sustainable change.
Media Contact: Eileen Druckenmiller
(802) 447-5558
Coalition Contact: Kiah Morris
(802) 447-5425