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Title:Smart Choices in the Grocery Store Pilot Project
Pub. date: July 2007
Edition: 1st
Includes: Grocery store events
Audience: Parents, Children, Elderly, Shoppers
Language: English, will be translated to Spanish at a later date
Description:This project was developed after a review of published grocery store campaigns found few provided comprehensive nutrition education needed by FSNE eligibles. It includes six planned grocery store events, each on a different nutrition topic. Specific objectives are set up for each event. Each grocery store event lasts four hours and is manned with trained paraprofessionals and volunteers. The events feature a bite sized portion of a new recipe or food, store intercom announcements, handouts for adults and children, table top displays, and small posters. Logs are used to record client’s responses and predetermined questions measure the impact of the event. The events are advertised using PSAs and the items used in the recipes are featured on store coupons and flyers.
Funding Source: Food Stamp Program, USDA
Developer: Mary Ann McFarland, MS, RD
Organization: Virginia Tech: Virginia Cooperative Extension Smart Choices Nutrition Education Program (SCNEP)
Length: 4 hours each event
Pilot Testing: Pilot is currently being conducted.
Assessment instrument Used? Not at the present time, but working on it. Intent to change and knowledge questions asked.
Use Restrictions: may copy
Reviewers Comments: This pilot project was created to help shoppers make healthier food choices at the point of purchase and thereafter. The project includes a number of different components, most of which are described in the Power Point presentation, “Smart Choices in the Grocery Store: pilot project”. It is a fresh and innovative approach to nutrition education, and one which has attracted the attention of many SNAP educators.

At the heart of the project are a series of grocery store events which focus on nutrition topics and food groups. There are six planned grocery store events for this project to date:

  • Focus on Fruit
  • Think Your Dink
  • Vary Your Veggies
  • Increasing Whole Grains
  • Reducing Sodium
  • Getting Calcium for a Lifetime

The events are held at local grocery stores which are high volume FSP (food stamp participation) authorized retailers, which include retailers that have an average FSP of $50,000 or more over the course of 12 months. This was outlined in “High Volume FSP (Food Stamp Participation) Authorized Retailers as Venues for FSNE", a memo released on July 18, 2006 from Food and Nutrition Services to Food Stamp Program directors. In the pilot, prospective grocery stores were given a letter of intent explaining the program, and how it would involve the grocery store. A sample letter is available, and can be customized for use by other similar programs, and tailored to meet the needs of individual programs. In addition, the Food Stamp Program Outreach Tool Kit for Retail Stores was reviewed before the inception of the program and incorporated into program planning and activities. The Tool Kit can be used by similar local programs to help demonstrate to grocery stores the importance of nutrition education at the point of sales. The Iowa Nutrition Network’s Pick a Better Snack program was also reviewed and used as a reference for Smart Choices in the Grocery Store (SNAP-Ed Connection review available for this resource).

FSNE providers visited interested grocery stores and arrange the location and time of the event. Events were centered around one of the six central themes, and included a prepared recipe which was distributed to shoppers, handouts for adults and children, educational displays, and announcements played over the store intercom reinforcing the topic. In the ‘Focus on Fruit’ event, paraprofessionals distributed samples of canned, fresh, frozen and dried fruits along with a brochure comparing the cost, calories, and calories from fat of each against less healthy snack foods: chocolate, chips, ice cream, and cookies. Samples of ‘fruit pizza’, a prepared snack using a modified recipe from the Kansas State Kids a Cookin’ program, were also distributed (SNAP-Ed Connection review also available for this resource). Young children were given a simple coloring page with large pictures of fruit. The ‘Increasing Whole Grains’ event used handouts in English and Spanish from the Whole Grains Council / Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust. New handouts were also developed that outlined excellent and good sources of whole grains at the supermarket. An additional handout explained how to identify whole grains and the importance of looking for them at the point of purchase. During all events, staff also promoted enrollment into other Food Stamp Nutrition Education opportunities such as face-to-face lessons or newsletter enrollment. Stores were encouraged to give coupons and discounts to foods that were featured.

To measure the impact of the program, predetermined questions were asked of event participants and a log was used to record their responses. The questions asked were whether the participant had sampled the food before, whether they would eat or prepare and eat it in the future, and whether they would attempt to improve eating behavior in the future (for example, would they eat more fruits and vegetables in the future?). Questions were designed to measure an increase in nutrition skills and determine intent to change food selection behaviors. Local agencies wishing to incorporate similar activities into their programming could create impact evaluations tools specific to their activities and objectives.

Though this program is still in its beginning stages, its overall ideas and concepts can be valuable to other educators who are interested in implementing a similar initiative. The PowerPoint presentation gives a clear overview of the pilot project for those interested in learning more about this program or potentially beginning their own programs based in retail locations. It includes beautiful color photographs of ‘Smart Choices in the Grocery Store’ events, preliminary results of the first event, and future planning activities for the program. Especially helpful are the ‘tips for managing store events’, which are also included on the PowerPoint slides. Stay tuned for future details about this creative and unique project.

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