ALBANY, N.Y. — Hannaford shoppers are rounding out fill-in trips and stock-up missions with Best Night Sleep classes, Mommy and Me Yoga and 30 minutes of exercise for seniors.
It’s all part of a new 5,277-square-foot Healthy Living Center located within Hannaford’s Albany store. The facility features a group exercise room, fitness equipment, personal lockers and shower facilities. What’s more is that membership and all of the classes are free to the public.
“The supermarket is already a place where people look for information about healthy eating, so it’s completely natural to have opportunities here for engaging in fitness and education that’s centered on food,” Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom told SN.
The Healthy Living Center was launched as part of a partnership between Hannaford, Capital Region YMCA and health insurer CDPHP (Capital District Physicians Health Plan). Hannaford dietitians teach nutrition classes, while YMCA instructors lead group exercise.
Erin Breslin, director of marketing and membership for the Capital District YMCA, explained that there is a great need for this type of intervention in urban Albany where residents wouldn’t otherwise have access to these services. So when Hannaford approached the organization with the idea to partner, it jumped at the chance.
“We were doing a major remodel of this store and realized that we had some space available,” explained Blom. “Since one of our commitments is around health and wellness, we initiated a conversation with the YMCA that led to this really unique opportunity to provide a facility right here for the community.”
The Y considered opening a satellite YMCA at the store, but wanted to remove the cost barrier that prevents so many from improving their health. (YMCA membership is mostly fee-based, but it will not turn anyone away for an inability to pay.)
“We determined that there is always going to be a segment of the population who feel that health and well-being just isn’t for them,” Breslin said. “They may be overweight, struggle with diabetes or other chronic health issues, so we wanted to do something different to really communicate and attract that community so we created the Healthy Living Center.”
So that facility users feel like they belong, visitors are encouraged to become members. Upon registration, members receive a key tag that allows them access without signing in.
Hannaford employees also benefit from the center and are helping spread the word with shoppers.
“It’s been great for the Hannaford staff who come and participate and then share their experience with those who shop the store,” Breslin said.
Store associates are even helping shape the curriculum by providing insight into services that will resonate with residents. A Zumba class was recently added at some associates’ request.
Rather than simply address exercise, the Healthy Living Center takes a more holistic approach.
“We didn’t want to just make this a gym,” said CDPHP spokeswoman Ali Skinner. “It’s a Healthy Living Center, so you can work out on the elliptical, you can take a diabetes class, a weight management class, a breastfeeding class. It really addresses the whole person.”
In that vein, CDPHP has set up a private office in the center to answer questions regarding health insurance and what changes under Obamacare will mean for individuals.
The Healthy Living Center’s launch earlier this month was timed to coincide with the opening of the online health insurance exchanges, Skinner said.
“People are coming down and asking questions right now since there is a lot of confusion about who is affected by the Affordable Care Act,” she said.
Hannaford is helping spread the word about the center via fliers, informational brochures and associate T-shirts. It’s also hosted in-store events.
“We had an Open House and continue to create awareness with customers through informational displays and by offering tours,” said Blom. “There has been a lot of interest since day one.”
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