This past weekend I was skimming the paper headlines (yes, the ones on physical paper) as I do every day, when I saw a story in The New York Times on dieticians in grocery stores. The story initially caught my eye as the grocery chain featured in the story, Hy-Vee, is based in my home state, Iowa. While the story reminded me of home, it also got me thinking why I haven’t seen this (widely) on the East Coast. I remember when Hy-Vee rolled this out, and it isn’t exactly new. In my two years here, I have noticed a striking difference between the average diet on the East Coast and Midwest. With that being said, I figured programs like these would be much more prevalent on the East Coast, a place where I’ve found many to be very health-conscious.
While I can’t pinpoint regional health and nutrition choices, I was intrigued to learn more about why this is a “movement” that is pretty much being owned by Hy-Vee. Personally, I think it’s a genius idea. It’s kind of like putting a personal trainer in a gym and offering free or special rates to gym members for access. To me, putting nutritionist in a store is a step in the right direction to help people make healthy decisions on their own (with a little guidance from time-to-time). Although unlikely, I would not want to see public health/nutrition completely mandated (see my recent post on school nutrition standards).
The problem is that the average customer is subject to how a product is marketed, displayed and packaged. Consider the 100-calorie packs. You’re thinking, “Wow, this is great! I can indulge, guilt-free!” After taking a closer look at those things labeled as “healthy,” you realize you were probably better off just downing a small cookie. Consumers really need to be educated on proper nutrition and I think Hy-Vee has made the right move. Stores need to make it easy for the shopper and their family. Beyond Hannaford's (we don't have one in Watertown), have you seen any grocery stores around the area that offer this? If so, I would love to hear about them. I really hope it’s a movement that spreads better than Jif peanut butter. If you want to read more on this program, check out the full article referenced above here.