This summer the EATWISE interns partnered with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to make over six bodegas and supermarkets in the East Tremont neighborhood in the South Bronx. The goal of this partnership, called “Shop Healthy Bronx,” was to make nutritious options more accessible where people shop.
When we first entered a store, we used an evaluation assessment sheet to look for the important things we might have to change. Was the water at eye level? Did the deli offer a “combo” of healthy items for one price? Were nuts and dried fruits available? Did the ads on the walls promote unhealthy food? If something was missing we marked it down on our assessment sheet. Once we completed our evaluation we repositioned products and put up healthy marketing signs.
Most of the bodega owners allowed us to move water to eye level and soda to the bottoms of shelves or fridges. This encourages shoppers to grab a bottle of water instead of a sugary drink, since people tend to take what is placed right in front of them.
We also hung “shelf talkers” next to price tags. These signs promote healthier choices. For example, some say “Choose whole wheat pasta, oatmeal and brown rice,” “Look for canned products that are low in sodium,” and “Choose 1% or fat-free milk.” Sometimes customers don’t know that there are healthier options because they don’t look at the labels. Our shelf talkers help them easily find the better choices. The EATWISE teens also put up price tags with eye-catching words like fresh, ripe or juicy next to fresh produce to market whole foods. This encourages buyers to select fresh fruit instead of a bag of chips or candy.
In addition, we often moved food stands holding nutritious items in front of those showcasing junk foods. The fresh produce was moved to the front of the store, as well as the nuts and dried fruit. This way, customers will see bananas, apples, peanuts, and raisins rather than cookies or soda when they first walk into the store.
If there was a deli in the bodega or supermarket, we asked about putting up a deli combo poster. The combo usually consists of a sandwich on whole wheat bread, along with a piece of fruit and a bottle of water.
Once we finished repositioning products and hanging shelf talkers, we met at the store’s front door and took down any unhealthy advertising, replacing them with our own “Shop Healthy Bronx” posters. This let’s incoming customers know that they will find healthy options inside the store.
While our Shop Healthy makeovers weren’t extravagant, we were still able to get our message across: You CAN find healthy foods in most delis—and the EATWISE interns are making it easier.
Annie is an Ambassador for EATWISE (Educated and Aware Teens Who Inspire Smart Eating), a Food Bank for New York City nutrition education program.