WILMINGTON, Del. -- Supermarkets from coast to coast got into the Produce for Better Health Foundation's 5 a Day Across the USA tour in a big way this year, officials at the foundation's headquarters here said.
Employees at an Acme Markets store built an immense produce display shaped like the state of Delaware; a Piggly Wiggly store in Memphis, Tenn., draped a 5 a Day banner across its entrance, garbed its associates in 5 a Day T-shirts, and brought out its mascot Mr. Pig to shake hands with the PBHF's Produce Man; and retailers collected thousands of pledges from customers to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day for a year.
That's just some of what went on during the foundation's two-week swing from California to Washington, D.C., to promote the importance of eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily for better health.
This is the foundation's third annual 5 a Day tour, but the first to stretch completely across the United States. Featuring events designed to educate consumers about healthy eating, the tour went from May 18 to June 2 and was complemented by unprecedented participation by supermarkets along the way, said Robb Enright, spokesman for the foundation.
The tour group visited 14 retail stores and three retail corporate headquarters, including Albertson's, Dominick's, Fleming Cos., Hy-Vee, Kroger Co., Macey's, Marsh Supermarkets, Piggly Wiggly, Pick 'N Save/Roundy's, Safeway, Stop & Shop, Supervalu, Tom Thumb and Wal-Mart.
Then, other chains like Acme Markets, Malvern, Pa., which has stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, participated by volunteering time and manpower to create such things as the state of Delaware-shaped produce display that was used as a backdrop when the governor of Delaware greeted the 5 a Day tour at a downtown ceremony in Wilmington.
That display was 8 feet tall, more than 4 feet wide, and contained 400 pounds of product, according to Michael Lohinetz, produce manager at Acme's Pike Creek store in Wilmington. He and Acme corporate produce supervisor Randy Tyrie and store director Craig Austin spent six hours building the display at the store.
"That's including the time it took getting the lumber and dowels and actually constructing the base for it. Then it took us a couple of hours to place the produce in it," Lohinetz said, adding that he had to rent a truck to haul the display to the Wilmington park where the 5 a Day ceremony was held.
"I always use the 5 a Day [point-of-sale] materials. They're attractive and they work. This store always comes in No. 1 or 2 in produce sales among Acme stores," he added.
Storewide enthusiasm was evident at Piggly Wiggly when the Five a Day Across the USA tour stopped there.
"Everybody participated, even grocery. Everybody in the store wore 5 a Day T-shirts," said Reginold Brown, produce manager at a Piggly Wiggly store in the heart of downtown Memphis.
It was Brown's idea to bring out Piggly Wiggly's Mr. Pig to greet the foundation's fruit-and-vegetable-clad Produce Man. All the activity attracted local radio stations, and Brown was pleased with customer reaction, he said.
"We collected a few hundred pledges [from customers who agreed to the challenge of eating 5 a Day for a year] and sales were up quite considerably that day. I'd say by at at least 15%."