Getting Supermarket Smart about Nutrition and Wellness
Did you know that too much sugar is bad for your health, or that drinking one 20 oz. sugary drink per day leads to 15 lbs. of weight gain per year? Or that agave syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, and honey are all code words for sugar?
Robyn McIntosh, a customer at a Pathmark in the Bronx, knew that limiting sugar intake led to better health. She started drinking seltzer “for the fizz” instead of soda three years ago, in order to avoid weight gain and diabetes.
For three weeks in March, shoppers at several of A&P’s Pathmark stores participated in nutrition and wellness events held by NYC FRESH in partnership with the A&P family of supermarkets. Designed to create awareness about substituting low and no-calorie drinks as healthier alternatives to sugary drinks, the programs were implemented in three of A&P’s Pathmark stores located in areas of high need for access to healthy foods—the Bronx, Harlem, and Central Brooklyn, as well as independent supermarkets that have received benefits through the FRESH program. The pilot program was funded through a $30,000 grant from the New York State Healthy Heart Program, and NYC FRESH also partnered with the local District Public Health Offices to promote the event to the community.
FRESH representatives shared about healthy alternatives to sugary beverages, including water with lemon or lime, 1% or fat-free milk, seltzer, and herbal tea, and distributed pamphlets as part of a 10-minute workshop every half hour on weekdays from March 5th to March 23rd. Those who attended received a free “NYC Water” refillable water bottle and a chance to win a $500 gift certificate from NYC FRESH. Many came away with flyers to take back to their family, friends, and colleagues.
As part of A&P’s commitment to health and wellness, low-calorie and no-calorie beverages were on sale at participating Pathmark stores during the campaign, and were placed in more accessible areas of the supermarket. A&P is also providing a new Wellness Factor Tag system, which are color-coded labeling tags that put clear wellness information at shoppers’ fingertips. Customers also have the opportunity to join A&P’s Wellness Club, which provides members with special discounts on healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as online wellness resources.
The FRESH initiative was established by the City in partnership with the City Council in 2009 after a study by the NYC Departments of City Planning and Health and Mental Hygiene showed that many low-income areas across the city are underserved by supermarkets and full-service grocery stores. The resulting lack of nutritious, affordable, and fresh food in underserved neighborhoods has been linked to higher rates of diet-related diseases, including diabetes and obesity. Supermarket owners and operators have found it difficult to finance new projects in New York City because of high land costs. FRESH incentivizes the creation and retention of supermarkets by providing zoning and financial incentives to eligible grocery store operators and developers in underserved neighborhoods.
Photo credits: Joanna Frank/NYCEDC