Location Pin New England

Healthy Retail as an Economic Catalyst in Massachusetts

What happens when a state public health entity takes a calculated risk and novel approach to embrace public health through the vantage point of economic development and the small retailers on the front lines of providing more nutritious goods and services to residents?


Leveraging its expertise in small business development and healthy retail, Urbane worked alongside MDPH and four communities to better understand their current needs and to chart a course forward that could positively impact food retailers while hopefully reducing chronic illness over time. 


Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH)


2016 - 2018

Select Services

Retailer Needs Assessments 

Small Business Technical Assistance

Programmatic Recommendations

Stakeholder Convening


Corey and Reis Meat Market at a nearby farmer's market

In 2016, Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) engaged Urbane in their continued efforts to reduce chronic illnesses in four communities – Franklin County, Hampshire County, Springfield and Fall River – through a unique lens for a public healthy entity:  one viewed through economic development. Leveraging its expertise in small business development and healthy retail, Urbane worked alongside MDPH and the four communities, to better understand their current needs, strengths and opportunities, and to chart a course forward. 

After a series of initial consultations, Urbane conducted a Preliminary Needs Assessment and quickly identified both site-specific and areas of shared concern, with a lack of consumer demand data and a lack of long-standing relationships with store owners quickly emerging as areas of opportunity for all. Urbane deployed a team of consultants for subsequent site visits, which included store visits and assessments, and further discussions to better understand the local context, as well as a group meeting of grantees from the Pioneer Valley to understand their shared interest around distribution. From these activities, the team created a matrix of short-, medium- and long-term action items, including suggested pathways forward for each community, and programmatic recommendations for the agency as it strives to create healthier, more vibrant communities throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  

All in the multi-generational immigrant family: Entrepreneurs Tony Ventura, Leonara Ventura, and Anthony Ventura

Urbane next convened a strategy session and interactive workshop that brought together a diverse coalition of stakeholders, most for the first time, to work toward understanding and creating the conditions for healthy retailers to thrive, including the policies, financing strategies, and advocates needed to create this vibrant ecosystem. As a result, Hampshire County and Springfield moved forward at the local level, innovatively using limited resources to combine motivated store owners with local financing and technical assistance for pilot projects. In Fall River, the Urbane took a more hands-on approach, working with a family-owned Portuguese chouriço artisan to develop and market healthier sausages and increase revenues.  

We invite you to watch a video capsule of our time in Fall River with Tony Ventura, owner and operator of Reis Meat Market, and his family.  As their store motto suggesst, be sure to check out "Your Home for the best homemade Chouriço!" not only if you're in Fall River, but they ship nationally :) 

Collaborative Contributors