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QUINCY, Mass. and SCARBOROUGH, Maine - Two supermarket operators in New England -- Ahold USA banners Stop & Shop and Giant Food, and Delhaize's Hannaford Bros. Co. are vying to be at the head of the class in health-and-wellness education, with two new nutrition initiatives.
The Ahold banners are offering schools and organizations revamped field trips for students in grades K to 3. Hannaford, meanwhile, has rolled out an what it calls an "in-store navigation system" dubbed "Guiding Stars," designed to make it easier for shoppers of all ages to select food that's better for them.
"Healthy eating habits begin in childhood, so it's important for parents, teachers, and the community to work together in helping children learn to eat healthy," said Stop & Shop/Giant consumer advisor Andrea Astrachan. "Our store tours are the perfect setting for learning about healthy eating because kids can see, feel, and even taste healthy foods right in the supermarket."
This year, store tours for schools in Stop & Shop and Giant's operating areas will have a new focus on the messages of the latest USDA MyPyramid for Kids, which instructs children to be physically active and to make healthy food choices.
Additionally, children receive a "behind the scenes" look at the supermarket as they visit each department including produce, meat, seafood, dairy, and bakery. At each stop, children discover how to make nutritious food choices. The tours also encourage healthy physical activity. At the start of the store tour, for instance, the children jump up and down five times for the five food groups.
After the tour, each child gets an educational activity book with a coupon for free yogurt, and teachers receive accompanying guides including additional information and lessons on nutrition.
Teachers and youth leaders can call their local Stop & Shop or Giant store to arrange tours that are usually held on weekdays, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
For the Hannaford Guiding Stars initiative, meanwhile, more than 27,000 items sold in stores were analyzed, resulting in a labeling system featured on food shelf tags throughout all of the retailer's locations.
The system, which is based on a proprietary, patent-pending formula created by a scientific advisory program, features a symbol of a figure with one, two, or three stars, with one star equaling good nutritional value, two stars equaling better nutritional value, and three stars equaling best nutritional value. Under the system's criteria -- which support the recommendations of the federal government's dietary guidelines -- foods are credited for minerals, vitamins, dietary fiber, and whole grains, and debited for trans fats, saturated fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and added sodium.
"It's not often that any retailer can say they're the first to promote a new offering," said Hannaford spokeswoman Caren Epstein. "At Hannaford it's critical that we listen and respond to consumer needs as quickly as possible. Our research -- including more than 3,000 Hannaford shoppers -- shows that our customers want to eat better, but are confused by the volume and complexity of nutrition information. Guiding Stars will help by giving them a simple way to make more informed choices."
Guiding Stars uses information provided from the Nutrition Facts labels on foods and ingredient lists. In the case of unpackaged foods, such as fresh produce and meat, the information comes from the U.S. department of Agriculture. Since manufacturers' serving sizes vary, the program employs a consistent unit of 100 calories to analyze foods.
Unstarred products either don't meet the nutritional criteria for a star, or they have not been rated because of one or more reasons: regulatory bodies haven't yet established product guidelines for them, as in the case of baby food; they're not a significant source of nutrients, as with coffee, tea, bottled water, and spices; or their labels are inconsistent.
Stop & Shop/Giant Food employs more than 83,000 associates and operates 560 stores throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.
Employing over 26,000 associates, Hannaford operates 158 stores under the Hannaford Supermarket and Hannaford Supermarket and Pharmacy banners.