Healthier Check-Out Aisles at the Wal-Mart in Anderson, Calif.

by

Salud Heroes
Share On Social!

Latinos are the largest minority group in Anderson, a small city in northern California’s Shasta County. Already heavily targeted by junk food advertisements on TV, Latino children face the temptation of unhealthy foods every day, and grocery store check-out lines can be one of the toughest spots for kids to make healthy choices. In the fall of 2006, concerned Anderson students decided to take a stand against junk food in check-out aisles, and their impact rippled into many grocery stores across the country.

EMERGENCE

Awareness: A group of middle-schoolers in Anderson saw the daily struggle they and their peers faced at the grocery and convenience stores: a lot of junk food options at the check-out aisles. They were fed up with how the placement and heavy promotion of these unhealthy products encouraged kids to eat poorly—a poor diet is one of the biggest contributors to obesity and its related health complications.

The group, "Kids Make a Stand," present their research to Wal-Mart. Source: Anderson Valley Post http://www.andersonvalleypost.com/photos/2007/jun/12/3608/
The group, “Kids Make a Stand,” present their research to Wal-Mart.
Source: Anderson Valley Post http://www.andersonvalleypost.com/photos/2007/jun/12/3608/

Learn: Already involved in Healthy Eating Active Communities (HEAC), an after-school program by The California Endowment that guides youth through advocating for healthy changes in their communities, the youth had seen how they could make impactful changes themselves. They had already helped get better parks in the area. Now they wanted to learn how to improve healthy food options in neighborhood stores.

To learn what snacks were definitively healthy or not, HEAC staff helped the youth learn about the right levels of sugar, fat, and salt for a healthy body. The kids learned how to properly read snack nutrition labels to figure out exactly how much one portion size is versus the whole package, something confusing even for adults. They also discussed how junk food not only affects kids’ bodies, but also their minds, leading to decreased concentration in school. Part of the learning process was actually going into local stores and surveying what the check-out aisles were offering. They founds that the overwhelming majority of snacks were chips, candy, chocolate, and lots of salty junk.

Frame Issue: The youth set out on a journey to get junk food out of check-out aisles and stands in stores in their community—an initiative they called “Kids Make a Stand.” Little did they know that their efforts would bring them face-to-face with the country’s largest grocer.

DEVELOPMENT

Education/Mobilization: After their research, the kids reached out to a handful of food retailers in the area to see if any of them shared the same concerns for the health of young people. The first store manager who agreed to meet with the students was Tim Trimble, manager of the Wal-Mart in Anderson. As the youth presented their idea, they asked Trimble some bold questions, said Christine Haggard, the Shasta County Public Health Department’s community organizer that worked with the kids.

“They asked him ‘Don’t you care about the kids in your community? Don’t you want them to have good energy and better test scores?’ But Mr. Trimble, being a father of four children himself, did not take much convincing,” Haggard said.

Debate: Trimble was personally on-board with the kids’ requests, but he had some professional limitations.

He explained that due to long-term contracts with manufacturers, Wal-Mart could not offer an entirely junk food-free check-out stand/aisle. However, Trimble said he could pilot a check-out stand that included less junk food and more healthy options. The students were satisfied with this, but Trimble had a few more requests.

ENACTMENT

Activation: For the pilots to become permanent, Trimble said the stands had to meet a few conditions: the display had to be designed to meet Wal-Mart standards, the students had to conduct customer surveys to show they had at least 10% customer support, and the healthy options would have to show an increase in sales. “It sounded like a lot, but the students were determined and convinced that they had community support,” said Sheryl Brophy Vietti, a community development coordinator for Shasta County Public Health. Trimble also asked the kids to come up with the specific healthy snacks that they would want to see in the new aisles and nutritional guidelines for Wal-Mart to follow.

Frame policy: To come up with solid nutritional standards, the kids worked with a registered dietician, modeling their standards after the California nutrition standards for school food. For a snack to be accepted, it must have 5 grams or less of fat, no trans-fat, 30 grams or less of carbohydrates, 500 milligrams or less of sodium, and 3 or more grams of fiber per serving.

The students got access to four of the eight spots on the aisles to fill with the healthy snacks of their choosing. Wal-Mart was unable to completely remove the candy display from the healthier checkout stands due to corporate contracts. Yet, the students brought in some tasty and healthy competition: granola bars, jerky, low-fat muffins, nuts, 100 calorie pack crackers, raisins, yogurt-covered raisins, raisins, trail mix, dried fruit, applesauce, rice cakes, and animal crackers. The students also spent time designing the new stands and addressing Wal-Mart’s standards.

Wal-Mart staff eventually cleared the kids’ design and began to reconfigure the aisles, putting up the student-crafted “Kid Healthy Choices” signs to indicate which check-out stands have healthier snacks.

Change: Finally, in Spring 2007, Wal-Mart staff had built two stands according to the kids’ specifications—beginning the test to see if a business could offer healthy foods and turn a profit at the same time.

Trimble and the students quickly found their answer: the success of the healthy stands was immediate. Sales doubled and staff constantly had to restock items like granola bars, applesauce, and trail mix.

There was such overwhelming customer support that Wal-Mart called off the customer surveys after two weeks because they were only reiterating what the huge increase in sales was saying: that people were going crazy for all the healthy snacks.

IMPLEMENTATION

Implementation/Equity: Following the initial success of the healthy food options, the Anderson Wal-Mart expanded the healthier stands into more aisles. A third display has since been added, along with refrigerated “cold boxes” offering 100% fruit juices, low-fat yogurt, and fresh fruits and dips such as sliced apples and peanut butter.

They even put up a storefront display so all customers were aware of the healthier options available to them.

Sustainability: The healthier snacks created such a demand that they drew the attention of media and of neighboring Wal-Mart managers, including one as far away as Indiana. Trimble’s hope is that if kids can eat healthy and aren’t challenged by sugar at the register, they can carry that healthy feeling into school and truly be ready to learn.

Have you seen the ripples of these students’ bold moves in a Wal-Mart or grocery store near you?

This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

 ABOUT THE PROGRAM

Salud America! The RWJF Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program aims to educate researchers, decision-makers, community leaders, and the public in contributing toward healthier Latino communities and seeking environmental and policy solutions to the epidemic of Latino childhood obesity. The network is directed by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

For more information, visit http://www.salud-america.org.

By The Numbers By The Numbers

1

Supermarket

for every Latino neighborhood, compared to 3 for every non-Latino neighborhood

This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Share your thoughts

Secured By miniOrange