WYOMING, Mich. — Spartan Stores, Meijer and The Kroger Co. are among the retailers participating in the Pure Michigan FIT program, a nutrition and fitness initiative focusing on the health needs of children under 5.
The Michigan Grocers Association brought together a cross-section of retailers as part of the effort led by Michigan Gov. Richard Snyder. The state’s Department of Agriculture; pediatrician associations; The Department of Human Services, which provides SNAP benefits; and the Department of Community Health, responsible for WIC, are also involved.
Linda Gobler, president and chief executive officer of MGA, said the program will begin its three-year rollout in supermarkets because retailers already provide health information.
“There’s so much available already in the stores,” said Gobler, referring to the information supermarkets provide through shelf tags, nutrition rating systems and in-store dietitians.
The multi-year program will begin by using the Feeding Infants and Toddlers study, commissioned by Nestlé Nutrition, which found that breastfeeding is the best first nutrition; juice consumption should be limited to 4 to 6 ounces per day; saturated fat can be reduced by switching from whole milk to low-fat; and feeding a child healthy, nutrient dense foods like fruits and vegetables is critical.
The program will eventually expand to hospitals’ pediatric wards and also reach low-income families on how to get the best nutrition using state benefits. Gobler said pediatricians often don’t know about the nutrition education tools offered by supermarkets and one goal of the program is to bridge the awareness gap.
Pure Michigan FIT kicked off earlier this month with a festival at the Spartan Stores Family Fare Metro Health Village here. Children from area daycare centers took part in a Nutrition Key scavenger hunt and played in a milk moustache photo booth.
Gobler said the location was chosen for its proximity to a YMCA and a hospital. “It’s a great place to promote healthy eating,” she said.
And bringing retailers together allows stores to see how other supermarket operators highlight nutrition and daily dietary needs.
“We want to expose retailers to what we can promote as an industry,” Gobler said. “Another store representative saw the Spartan [Nutrition Guide] labels and said they should be doing that.”
Spartan’s Nutrition Guide labels list relevant nutrition information in a color-coded system.