GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Spartan Stores here is the first company to launch a new online program designed to teach children basic cooking skills and develop their nutrition know-how.
The “Cooking Together, Cooking Forever” training program kicks off in October at Spartan’s Family Fare with a series of eight videos, released monthly. The videos include a “Nutrition Bytes” segment featuring Allison Reed, corporate dietitian at Spartan, who gives health tips related to the particular cooking technique taught in that month’s lesson.
“By teaching these cooking skills, we are giving families the tools they need to prepare healthy meals, not just by following a recipe, but actually learning how to cook,” Reed told SN in an interview. “The point of this program is to bring the focus back to home-cooked meals, get families in the kitchen, and make it easy for them to eat around the dinner table more often.
“I believe that eating more nutritious, home-cooked meals will lead to a healthier generation.”
The Cooking Together, Cooking Forever program was developed by Del Prince Marketing, which also runs the “Apples for the Students” cause-marketing program used by many supermarket operators.
“Obviously the obesity problem is not something any one program is going to automatically correct, but it is a very simple issue — it is calories in vs. calories out,” Mitch Sheffler, executive director, Del Prince Marketing, told SN. “We are trying to attack this from the ‘calories in’ side of the equation.
“What we have found is that parents are not teaching cooking in the home the way they used to. The old Norman Rockwell, 1950s-style image of parents teaching their kids to cook so they can do it for themselves in adulthood is just not happening any more.”
Ben Del Prince, president of Del Prince Marketing, said the program is designed for companies that don’t necessarily have a dietitian in every store but want to reach more people with a nutrition-based message. The program is promoted through schools, so that teachers encourage parents to have their children sign up.
Spartan pays Del Prince on a per-store basis for the use of the program, which the supermarket operator can customize to incorporate various store-specific content, such as nutritional store tours or product information.
The program, which targets children age 9-16, has potentially much more reach than other cooking and nutrition efforts Spartan has undertaken, Reed explained.
The company has run cooking programs in its culinary classroom in Grandville, Mich., that are led in person by one of the company’s professional chefs. Customers sign up and pay for classes on an individual basis.
“Cooking Together, Cooking Forever is different because of the potential reach,” Reed said. “We only have one culinary classroom. The opportunity here is to reach out to families across the state, work with them in their own kitchens, and teach them basic cooking techniques, not just recipes. Not only that, we are bringing this program to our customers for free.
“Another unique aspect of this program is that shoppers who sign up for CTCF will have the opportunity to receive offers on groceries and general merchandise that are relevant to the lessons taught,” Reed explained. “We carry everything in the store that is needed for full participation in the program — from knives and cutting boards, to pots and cast-iron skillets, to groceries.
Many of the items used in the cooking lessons are items Reed has featured in Spartan’s “Healthy Pick of the Week” section in print and online ads. Reed also leads a virtual healthy grocery store tour as one of the perks to signing up for Cooking Together, Cooking Forever. The tour explains Family Fare’s Nutrition Guide shelf-tag program that calls out attributes such as low fat, low sodium, high fiber, gluten free, sugar free and low calorie.
Reed also teaches customers about the USDA’s MyPlate food guidance system in the virtual tour.
Customers of Spartan’s Family Fare banner can sign up at www.ctcf.org/familyfare through September. The website will house all the videos as they are released, plus recipes, nutrition education materials, culinary techniques and “fun food facts,” Reed explained.
“We hope to have great participation and offer this as an ongoing program across all of our corporate stores in Michigan,” said Reed.
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