As the food-as-medicine trend continues to build momentum in the supermarket industry, FMI - The Food Industry Association on Monday released a new video highlighting efforts by two regional grocery chains to position themselves at the heart of community efforts to improve people’s health and well-being.
One of those retailers, Southern California supermarket chain Northgate Gonzalez Market, has struck agreements to connect shoppers with a range of nonprofit healthcare providers and county programs at no cost, Teresa Blanco, director of community engagement and wellness for the retailer, said in the video.
The company, which operates about 40 supermarkets in Southern California that cater to Mexican and Latino shoppers, holds an average of 60 events per month, including cholesterol and diabetes screening and mammograms, Blanco said.
In addition, Northgate brings elementary school students into its stores and teaches them about nutrition, with a goal of having that information filter to other people in the children’s families, according to Blanco. “We’re hoping that the next time they come into the store with their parents, they’re going to teach their parents what they've learned … and make healthier choices at home as a family,” said Blanco.
Kirby Stanton, a corporate retail dietitian for Food City, said in the video that the chain helps shoppers use nutrition guidelines laid out in the federal government’s MyPlate program when visiting its stores. “For me, working in a retail space allows us to better connect our communities and the people we serve with that consistent messaging,” said Stanton.
Food City, a unit of K-VA-T Food Stores, which runs 140 stores in southeast Kentucky, southwest Virginia, east Tennessee, north Georgia and Alabama, also has a shelf tag program known as “Pick Well” to assist consumers in selecting foods that are nutrition-dense or helpful in dealing with health conditions, Nicole Pazdziorko, another corporate retail dietitian for Food City, added.
Blanco underscored Northgate Gonzalez Market’s efforts to work with community partners to help build public awareness of healthy eating strategies, noting that the chain has had particular success with a program it supports to help high school students put together healthy lunches for $2.35 per meal.
Nutrition experts like Blanco, Stanton and Pazdziorko are playing a key role as grocers look to promote health and well-being in the communities they serve. More than 80% of food retailers that participated in a survey FMI conducted last year said they employ dietitians, and almost half said their dietitians have leadership positions.