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First Lady Michelle Obama toured North Philadelphia’s The Fresh Grocer supermarket in March as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to put an end to childhood obesity. To achieve this goal, the First Lady stresses that food deserts (areas where food is nonexistent, not healthy or too expensive) need to be eliminated. The Fresh Grocer at Progress Plaza opened in December 2009 and gave the N. Philadelphia community near Temple University its first full-service supermarket in over a decade.
Residents have access to fresh, healthy and affordable food for the first time in years, but many are hesitant to purchase these items due to a lack of product and preparation knowledge. To help educate customers on how to shop smart, try samples of new healthy foods, choose healthier options and learn ways to make quick nutritious meal, The Fresh Grocer has teamed up with a few organizations like The Food Trust (an organization that works to improve the health of children and adults, promote good nutrition, increase access to nutritious foods, and advocate for better public policy) to host healthy and interactive supermarket tours.
The tours are given by clinical dietitians and nutritionists, like Amy Deahl-Greenlaw, R.D. LDN, associate director of nutrition education for The Food Trust. During the tours, participants receive nutritional information, meet with The Fresh Grocer’s department managers, are treated to live product demonstrations, and offered samples of healthy items like fresh fruit smoothies and 100-calorie trail mix.
During a recent tour held on Thursday, March 11, the tour participants each received a complimentary $10 Fresh Grocer store gift card and were challenged to select one healthy item from each food group.
“We did a little healthy-eating introduction, briefly discussing all five food groups of MyPyramid (the USDA Guide to healthy eating),” said Deahl-Greenlaw. “The participants really seemed excited to take on the challenge and selected many items that we were discussing.”
Some of the items purchased by the participants were whole-wheat pasta, 100 percent whole-wheat bread, sweet potatoes, green peppers, oranges, strawberries, fish, 1 percent milk and low-fat yogurt.
“Participants especially loved the Value Produce Aisle,” said Deahl-Greenlaw. “We called it the best-kept secret in the store.”
The Fresh Grocer’s Value Produce Aisle features bagged produce of popular fruits and vegetables like apples, oranges, peppers and potatoes. All pieces are handpicked by the produce manager, bagged, weighed and labeled with a sale price. The aisle was incorporated in the produce department as an added convenience for customers, especially those not used to shopping for produce, as well as those on a fixed budget. Customers are able to see exactly what the cost is for the bag of items just by looking at the label; no weighing necessary.
After the tour, the group meets in The Fresh Grocer’s café for a chance to review what they learned over bottled water and fresh fruit. Surveys are then given to each participant to end the tour.
“The feedback on the surveys has all been very positive. Generally speaking, they cannot say enough about how beautiful and blessed they are to have this store,” said Deahl-Greenlaw.
In the photo: Amy Deahl-Greenlaw of The Food Trust and three supermarket tour participants pose for a photo in the Value Produce Aisle at The Fresh Grocer on North Broad Street.