Public Matters' Market Makeovers green the food desert -- one corner store at a time. A Market Makeover is a comprehensive strategy for addressing the "grocery gap" in "food deserts," areas that have limited access to quality, healthy food; an overabundance of fast food; and alarmingly high rates of chronic conditions related to poor diet. The process involves the physical transformation of existing corner stores, the addition of fresh produce; business training for storeowners/operators; education and community engagement; and social marketing to change health behaviors and increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption. It's not just about supply; you also have to make sure you create demand. Local youth and residents play a central role in the hands-on work of transforming markets and educating the community about the benefits of fruits and vegetables. They implement the solution, and in so doing take ownership of it.

Public Matters has been doing Market Makeovers since 2007, starting in South L.A. with the Healthy Eating Active Communities (HEAC) Initiative. For the past three years, Public Matters has been doing Market Makeovers in East L.A. and Boyle Heights through Proyecto MercadoFRESCO, a project of UCLA-USC Center for Population Health and Health Disparities (CPHHD). Proyecto MercadoFRESCO has transformed two markets in East L.A. so far, with two in Boyle Heights forthcoming. Artbound posts will focus primarily on these Makeovers, providing a behind-the-scenes look at process and evolution, community building and education in action. You'll explore the Boyle Heights Food Landscape and the challenges it poses to its inhabitants. You'll meet the local young people who are evolving into community health leaders. You'll see the stores before, during and after; meet the storeowners who've signed up for the risky proposition of selling fresh produce; learn how (or if) they build capacity for viable healthy food retail. You'll follow the Makeovers past the Grand Re-Openings to see youth-led efforts to ensure project sustainability when it counts the most: after the fanfare dies down.