In California, retail stores are seeing increased sales and consumer demand for fruits and vegetables, thanks to an innovative initiative called Harvest of the Month. Stores of all sizes, including some chain markets, have stepped up as active partners of the initiative, becoming suppliers and supporters of healthy food choices for their customers and communities.
Harvest of the Month has been at the forefront of addressing the childhood obesity crisis in California for over a decade. An initiative of the California Department of Public Health’s Network for a Healthy California (Network), Harvest of the Month was initially launched in schools. But now, thanks to community partnerships with worksites, clinics, food banks, local health departments, and retail food stores, Harvest of the Monthengages Californians in a variety of settings where nutrition education can have the biggest impact – where they live, learn, work, play, and shop.
Harvest of the Month gives Californians hands-on opportunities to explore, taste, and learn about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and being active every day. Three dozen California grown fruits and vegetables are featured in nearly 150 monthly elements, which include newsletters, menu slicks, press releases and posters. These materials provide produce selection tips, healthy recipe ideas, nutrition information, physical activity tips, and an in-depth look at the featured produce.
Retail stores across California have become partners of Harvest of the Month in a variety of creative and generous ways. For example, since 2005, Fort Bragg’s Harvest Market has donated the produce necessary for all Fort Bragg students to taste and learn about the featured produce in school – from classroom taste testings to cafeteria menus. The store simultaneously promotes the featured produce in stores and on sale to encourage families to enjoy it at home as well.
In Western Chula Vista, the Cilantro to Stores program has worked since December 2011 to increase access to healthy foods. For many families in this area of the state, walking to the local convenience store for groceries is not only commonplace, it’s the only choice.With support from the San Diego Regional Network and Retail Program, four smaller stores are connected to local farmers to increase access to freshly grown produce, which is in turn sold in the stores. The stores also incorporate Harvest of the Month materials into engaging in-store displays, showing families how to prepare healthy meals and snacks with fruits and vegetables.
Every year the Network and Harvest of the Month partner with retailers for Fruit and Veggie Fest, a month-long celebration with in-store events and displays to promote the health (and taste) value of fruits and vegetables. Last year, Fruit and Veggie Fest came to life at Northgate Market in Santa Ana with the help of volunteers who gave tips to shoppers on how to get improved access to healthy and affordable food options. Shoppers also had the opportunity to sample Harvest of the Month recipes, and to see how easy shopping for and cooking with fresh produce can be.
Surveys show that retail promotions can have a positive impact on how shoppers spend their food dollars. Thanks to support from Harvest of the Month, California food retailers have been able to be a part of this positive effort. But stores anywhere are able to join the fight against childhood obesity with Harvest of the Month. All materials can be downloaded for free at www.harvestofthemonth.com, and are adaptable for all audiences.