Make Health Happen

In a Nutshell

The East St. Louis Make Health Happen partnership consists of local community organizations working together to improve food access in East St. Louis, Illinois.   The Corner store initiative works to increase access to healthy food while building demand in the community through education and promotion of healthy food options.   We are working with corner stores to promote healthy items in their stores while working to increase the number of healthful options offered throughout the community.   Additionally, our community partners are currently working to improve access to nutrition information by providing healthy cooking demonstrations and direct and series based nutrition education.  We continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with community partners that can provide their time, talents and resources to this initiative.  We are seeking direct donations in the form of monetary donations or equipment donations such as baskets, racks, and small grocery display coolers.  Additionally, we are in need of technical assistance related to food procurement and small business expertise that might serve as mentors to local corner stores.

Project Information


Research links proximity to grocery stores and access to fresh produce to adverse health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.  St. Clair County, Illinois has the highest obesity rate in the state, with the city of East St. Louis being particularly vulnerable to health disparities related to nutrition and food access.   The median income level in East St. Louis is $19,934 with 42% of the population living in poverty (national average is 14.1%).   The local WIC office has determined over 60% of women using WIC services fall in an obese category.  East St. Louis has been designated as a food desert with over 40 corner stores.  Many residents depend on local convenience stores that offer limited healthy alternatives to processed and unhealthy food.  
 In 2015, East Side Health District received a one year national WIC grant to work towards the implementation of a corner store initiative in the City of East St. Louis.   Over the course of the year they have developed a partnership committed to improving food access and health outcomes in the city.  The partnership is referred to as Make Health Happen and comprised of representatives from 14 community organizations.   At the early stages, East Side Health District conducted a community needs assessment that further highlighted a variety of issues related to food scarcity and access issues throughout the city.  A marketing and promotional campaign has been developed that includes a localized logo.   This program identified five stores that agreed to work with the partnership, which involves a store assessment, store modifications, food availability and customer engagement and education.   Additionally, the partnership is working to address food scarcity issues through the development and dissemination of resources on local food pantries, farmers markets, and meal locations.  The local health department worked with SIUE nursing students to physically visit all listed food pantries to confirm they are still operating, their hours, and type of pantry.   Once they had a confirmed list of food pantries, a pocket guide was developed listing pantries, addresses and hours of operation.   These resources are being provided to the local housing authorities, clinics, hospitals, managed care companies, social service agencies and schools.  Various WIC outreach materials have also been developed and distributed throughout agencies in the city promoting the WIC to 5 Program.  

Currently East Side Health District is working closely with the Illinois Nutrition Education Program (INEP) through the University of Illinois Extension on modifying stores and offering nutrition education in the surrounding community.  Additionally, we are working to identify next steps after the health department’s grant ends.  Food retail and food access are two target areas for the INEP, which can offer some nutritional promotional materials for store modifications, staff support and educational programming.   At the same time, additional resources are needed to ensure sustainability since this program is in the early stages and consists of multiple strategies and needs, which cannot be met by any one organization.   East Side Health District has taken the lead in developing a solid foundation for improved food access and nutrition in the East St. Louis Community--but given the short duration of the grant the partnership will need further resources to ensure successful longer term implementation.




  1. Increase number of people with improved access to environments with healthy food and beverage options
  • Increase the number of existing stores that sell “healthy” foods in the target community
  • Increase the number of existing stores that expand their inventory of healthy foods in East St. Louis community.
  • Increase the number of stores with new on-site placement and promotion strategies for healthy foods in the target community.  
  • Decrease the number of alcohol and tobacco ads along store fronts in East St. Louis.
  • Develop a staple food policy for the city directed toward any store with 1/3 of their store inventory consisting of food items.
  • Work with city to develop code address exterior signage at corner stores (specifically not allowing alcohol and tobacco on the exterior of the building).
  • Increase the number of stores that offer cash or coupon incentives for purchase of healthy food items.
  • Increase the number of farmers’ markets that offer cash or coupon incentives for the purchase of healthy foods in the target community.
  • Increase the number of new tools and resources to create awareness of how to access healthy food options in the community.
  1. Increase the number of people in East St. Louis with improved access to opportunities for chronic disease prevention, risk reduction or management through community and clinical linkages.
  • Increase the number of participants enrolled in the WIC program
  • Increase the number of providers and other community partners that refer to WIC
  • Increase the number of providers, other healthcare staff, and other community partners that receive basic training on WIC services and benefits.


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Current Partners

  • East Side Health District
  • Illinois Nutrition Education Program, University of Illinois Extension
  • American Heart Association
  • City of East St. Louis
  • East St. Louis Housing Authority
  • Get Up & Go
  • Harmony Managed Care
  • Jeremiah’s Food Pantry
  • New Life Community Church
  • SIUE Head Start
  • Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation
  • St Elizabeth’s Hospital
  • St Louis University, Department of Nutrition
  • YMCA
  • More partnerships are being formed…