Be Our Voice Blog
Blog Entries from 01/2011
Friday, January 28th, 2011
It’s no secret that Americans struggle to get their two or more fruit servings and three or more vegetables servings per day. In fact, the latest CDC statistics from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show that only 32.5% of adults are eating the recommended daily servings of fruit and only 26.3% are eating the daily recommended servings of vegetables. But what are concerned individuals to do? In the end, unhealthy snacks are just more readily available and cheaper for adults and kids than are healthy snacks.
Some private companies are out to change that imbalance. The Wall Street Journal Health Blog reported last Halloween that A Bunch of Carrot Farmers™ (led by Bolthouse Farms) launched an ambitious campaign to rebrand baby carrots. The “Eat 'Em Like Junk Food” campaign was taken nationwide with the release of Scarrots, “a new kind of Halloween treat.” Carrots came in mini-packages and included glow-in-the-dark tattoos. But did kids go for it? "We've been blown away by the response to this campaign," said Jeff Dunn, chief executive officer, Bolthouse Farms. The company is following up the success of Scarrots with Super Bowl-themed packaging. More pictures and information can be found on their website, BabyCarrots.com. And if this packaging is not available in your area, the website offers a place where you can write Bolthouse Farms and “tell [them] why [they] should bring ‘em to your city.”
But carrots aren’t the only thing getting a makeover in the snack world. As the Wall Street Journal reported last October, “Fresh Del Monte Produce and a vending-machine maker, the Wittern Group, collaborated on a machine specially engineered to dispense fresh-cut fruits and veggies — even easily bruised bananas.” The machine—which went on the market in 2010—has two temperature zones. The top is loaded with bananas kept at about 57 degrees. The bottom zone—kept at about 34 degrees—holds packages of fresh-cut fruit and vegetables. The vending machine is already in some schools and sells for more than $5,000 compared to about $3,000 for a typical machine.
And even though adults seem more reluctant to pick fruits and veggies over chips and soda, recent research shows that children may be more likely to choose healthy snacks as long as the packaging features familiar cartoon characters. Using characters to market healthy foods was perhaps more prevalent in the pop culture of years past (remember Popeye and his spinach?), but it’s seeing a comeback today in characters like those from Veggie Tales. Of course, the implications of character marketing to kids make some parents and experts uncomfortable, which is why fun packaging like the kind used for these baby carrots—that doesn’t feature popular cartoon characters—is being met with such applause.
In the end, every child may not be getting the recommended daily servings of fruit and veggies yet, but innovations like these may help combat the stereotype that snacks have to be unhealthy to be fun and tasty.
Pushing Fruits and Veggies With Junk Food Tactics
The Great Banana Challenge—How to Dispense Healthy Snacks From A Vending Machine
State-Specific Trends in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Adults --- United States, 2000-2009
Influence of Licensed Characters on Children's Taste and Snack Preferences
Friday, January 21st, 2011
According to the New York Times, on Thursday, January 20, Wal-Mart announced a five year plan to drop prices on fruits and vegetables and to make thousands of its packaged foods lower in unhealthy salts, fats and sugars. The move represents a big step forward in addressing the affordability of healthy food in America.
While other national companies—like ConAgra—have promised similar reductions in unhealthy ingredients, Wal-Mart has much more influence over the market as a whole since it is the largest retailer in the United States. Wal-Mart “sells more groceries than any other company in the country” and is one of the largest purchasers of foods produced by national suppliers. Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of Center for Science in the Public Interest, describes Wal-Mart as being “in a position almost like the Food and Drug Administration” in terms of influence on the American food industry. The company’s five year plan is not only a great starting point for testing pricing strategies, it’s also a move that will likely push the major food suppliers it does business with—like Kraft—to follow a similar approach.
However, Wal-Mart’s plan is not without its caveats. According to Mr. Jacobson, “The company’s proposed sugar reductions are ‘much less aggressive’ than they could be” and “[Wal-Mart] is not proposing to tackle the problem of added sugars in soft drinks, which experts regard as a major contributor to childhood obesity.” The five year timeline is also much less aggressive than most experts would like.
There is also the question of accountability and holding hold Wal-Mart to its promises. According to the New York Times, The Partnership for a Healthier America “will monitor the company’s progress” as it implements its plan. Still, the changes will not go into effect immediately and, while Wal-Mart has been specific about its goals for reducing unhealthy ingredients by 2015, it has been vague about a timeline for rolling out the pricing reductions on fruits and vegetables.
The company is receiving attention for its plan from high places—First Lady Michelle Obama has publicly thrown her support behind their initiative. Mrs. Obama’s support of Wal-Mart is seen as “a prominent effort by the administration to spur further moves toward healthier food.”
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has made using pricing strategies to promote healthy food one of its 6 policy priorities for reversing childhood obesity by 2015. And although Wal-Mart’s five year plan is in imperfect in its details, it has already successfully accomplished one goal of childhood obesity advocates: help push the national discussion about pricing disparities and strategies to the forefront of public attention.
We’re eager to hear from healthcare professional advocates about how they think this might affect the children and families in their community. If you’d like to share, please leave a comment!
Wal-Mart Shifts Strategy to Promote Healthy Foods
Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
IEI received more than 70 nominations of promising healthcare innovations already at work in North Carolina. In February, they will begin to develop an action plan for how the 10 most promising innovations can be scaled and/or replicated to deliver better care at lower costs and create new, high-paying jobs across the state.
Laura Aiken, MHA, is the Director of AHA and the site lead for the Be Our Voice project site in WakeMed, NC. Way to go, AHA!