Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grocery Stores Central in Childhood Obesity

We recently read an article based on an initiative to make Philadelphia supermarkets healthier, in an attempt to reverse childhood obesity.

Obesity rates have more than quadrupled for children ages 6 to 11 and more than tripled for adolescents ages 12 to 19 in the past 40 years. Rates are more significant in the lower-income, multi-ethnic communities and neighborhoods - usually located in food deserts (areas with no easy access to healthy affordable food).

"If we don't reverse the epidemic, the current generation of young people could be the first generation in U.S. history to live sicker and die younger than their parents' generation," says the Philadelphia proposal.

Because full-service supermarkets and grocery stores offer large varieties of healthier foods compared with convenience stores, there is growing evidence that people who live more than a mile from a full-service grocery store are less likely to consume a healthy diet and more likely to be obese.

Almost 60% of shoppers say they spend most of their food-budget money in full-service grocery stores and over 90% of shoppers from households with children say they have shopped in a grocery store in the past 3 months (half the time accompanied by their children).

Supermarkets also help protect adolescents from becoming overweight. Additionally, there is a direct correlation between the presence of convenience stores and being overweight.

Conclusion: Grocery stores are "center stage" for combating and preventing childhood obesity.

Change Supermarket Design
Although, as mentioned above, there are advantages to having easy access to grocery stores, some experts believe they need to be rearranged. After all, remember that supermarkets are designed to sell inventory as fast, and in as large quantities as possible. They actually have ways of luring you into buying much more than what you've put on your shopping list - what you had planned.

Here are a few of the proposed changes for supermarkets:
The initiative proposes things like moving sodas and chips from the end of isles (highly visible and very easy to access) and removing sugary cereals from the bottom shelves where little kids can most easily see and grab them. Another proposed change is to place healthy and unhealthy items next to each other.

Why are these Changes Needed?
The following is a very powerful statement taken directly from the article:
"Self-checkout doesn't have the gauntlet of candy bars. Some industry consultants calculated that an average American woman could lose four pounds a year just going through self-checkout."

This is proof that people are lured into buying and consuming items they did not intend to buy. One of the references used for our "Scientific Reasoning Behind Drinking Diet Soda" says that certain foods are as addictive as some illegal drugs.

We agree that placing addictive items at arms' reach of kids, and enticing buyers is a huge factor in the current obesity trend seen across the world (not just the US). Changing displays and updating item locations can be a huge aid. It will be interesting to see how far this initiative gets... All of these changes affect the stores' bottom line.

We invite you to read the following two articles. They expose manufacturers and their use of food labels to make their products look healthier than they really are:

Subliminal Messages in Food Labels
Subliminal Messages in Food Labels II

[Good.is]: Check Yourself Out! The Science of Supermarket Design

Download initiative (PDF - 29 pages)

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