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Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. is using its 13-instore pharmacies to promote healthy eating.
Each month, the customers receive a different healthy-eating tip. In the pharmacy department next to the register, a sign highlights the food of the month along with a small display of the featured item; another sign is placed in the food aisle where the item is merchandised.
The program is the brainchild of Scott Wink, director of pharmacy at Charleston, S.C.-based Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co.
“In South Carolina, metabolic or dietary causes are at the root of a lot of the diseases being treated with prescription medications,” Wink says. “By giving people just medicine, historically, we’re just treating the disease.”
One of the program’s goals, Wink says, is to help customers make better food choices, and part of that is educating them about the healthy options that are plentiful in the supermarket. “It’s not necessary to eat rice cakes and drink only water,” he says. “We decided to highlight healthier foods with specific medicinal benefits. And we picked stuff that tastes good.”
In September, canned red and black beans, which have fiber and protein, as well as being filling and affordable, were in the limelight. The sign read: “Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart … Do you want to know why? Ask a pharmacist.”
Wink admits that the health benefits are complicated messages to get across, so the program encourages a one-on-one dialogue between the pharmacy staff and the customer.
On a related note, pharmacist is one of the most respected professions. Gallup’s annual Honesty and Ethics survey, which measures the public’s trust of various professions, reveals that pharmacists rank second to nurses for honesty and ethical standards.
The program kicked off in January with Progresso Low-Sodium Chicken Soup paired with a low-sodium, high-fiber cracker. And in February, red wine and dark chocolate with almonds were featured. In other months, apples, canned tuna in water, fiber snack bars, whole wheat pasta and extra-virgin olive oil have been on display.
In September, the Piggly Wiggly program joined forces with the “Healthy Monday” campaign, an initiative of The Monday Campaigns with the goal of getting individuals and organizations to commit to healthy behaviors. The New York-based organization’s president, Peggy Neu, explains that Monday is the day that people set weekly healthy intentions, such as beginning diets and exercising, and are in turn looking for help jump-start their plans with ideas and inspiration.
Not surprisingly, adds Wink, Mondays are the busiest day in the pharamacies, providing an ideal time for the pharmacy staff to redouble their outreach efforts to promote healthy lifestyle changes.
To make sure the Piggly Wiggly pharmacies are all on the same page, Wink sends signage to the pharmacy, and he also forwards the pharmacy team links to medical literature so they can “explore it themselves.”
The idea — that pharmacies can help people get more information on how to eat healthier — has a lot of potential, says Neu. “People visit some supermarkets two times a week,” she points out. “And more and more pharmacies are being integrated into supermarkets, and pharmacists are on the front line of providing health information…
“Piggly Wiggly is taking a leadership role in how they’re using the pharmacy. It’s a gateway to other areas of the supermarket,” Neu says. “With the health care crisis in this country, it’s a great idea to look at food in the store that can help prevent disease.”
Wink, pictured right, would like to see the pro¬gram expand not only to other Piggly Wiggly stores, but also for other grocery stores to “pick up and run with this idea.”
“Our goal is to make people healthy,” Wink adds. “If what we do can spread to other grocery stores, it would be wonderful.”