In 2013, Kroger’s Columbus Division partnered with Local Matters, a community collaborator that exists to educate children and adults about healthy and delicious food: how to grow it, how to cook it and how to access it affordably. Following the Cooking Matters at the Store program, which is nationally-recognized program designed to empower families to stretch their food budgets to provide healthy meals at home, local matters representatives began offering free guided grocery tours in Kroger stores. In the spring of 2015, recognizing that Kroger pharmacists are on-site medical professionals with existing relationships with many customers, pharmacists began receiving training and leading tours. Since the first pharmacist-led tour in April, Kroger pharmacists have led approximately 100 tours throughout our 124 stores. The tours have reached nearly 700 beneficiaries. Throughout the tour, our pharmacists teach basic nutrition and shopping skills to empower low-income families to stretch their food budgets so they can serve their family healthy food at home. Pharmacists instruct participants how to read food labels, compare unit prices to find the best buy, find whole grain foods and identify the best ways to purchase produce. At the conclusion of the tours, participants are given a $10 Challenge, an activity where participants use the skills they’ve learned to buy a healthy meal for a family of four using only $10.
To date, Kroger’s Columbus Division has contributed more than $20,000 to Local Matters to support the organization’s mission to ensure that everyone in central Ohio has access to, and education about healthful foods. Local Matters representatives began leading tours in Kroger’s Columbus Division stores in 2013. Those tours continued until this past spring when pharmacists began taking over the responsibility of leading the tours. Since the April 9, 2015, pharmacists have led approximately 100 tours, reaching nearly 700 participants. The popularity of the program continues to grow as pharmacists are able to speak to their patients about the benefits of attending. Currently, the pharmacy department is exploring the possibility of hosting tours for those who with specific conditions, including Celiac Disease and Diabetes.
The primary objective of the program is to inform our customers that they can eat healthy on a budget. Through the guided tours our pharmacists are teaching them how to make better food choices and stretch their dollar. By incorporating Kroger pharmacists we are linking our pharmacies with the rest of the store. The idea is to utilize our on-site health professional in a different way, a way which may encourage open conversation about healthy choices. If people suffer from health conditions they talk candidly with the pharmacist and work to improve their diet.
In 2013, Altarum Institute, an independent health systems research organization, evaluated Cooking Matter’s at the Store’s impact. It found that the tour produced lasting change on families’ shopping habits – with an outsized effect on those who rely on the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP). According to research, after a tour 76 percent of families buy more fruits and vegetables, while 85 percent of families buy less unhealthy food. Also, food security increased from 53 percent to 64 percent after taking the tour, as measured by how often families make their food budget last all month. Recently, at the division level we’ve begun researching the return on investment in the program: Do our customers feel more connected to their store and their pharmacist, are they more satisfied with their overall shopping experience and are they changing their shopping behavior? We are also looking into whether there is a correlation between the tours and increased prescription count. Due to the fact the program is still in its infancy, we do not yet have concrete, verifiable information.
"Our values and objectives as a grocer very much align with those of Local Matters, as we both work to ensure that all people have convenient access to healthy and affordable food. Our customers have told us that they need help selecting healthy options for their families. Kroger’s goal in providing these tours is to show customers that we offer healthy food for any budget.Training our pharmacists to lead these tours took our commitment a step further. Kroger pharmacists are trained medical professionals who can provide customers with credible information regarding their diet and how their food choices could impact their health. It is also a way to link our pharmacies with the rest of the store. It’s clear that customers are seeing a benefit because the tours routinely fill up, and customers continue to express interest," Joe Grieshaber, President, Kroger Columbus division.
"We can’t do it alone, and that’s why we are appreciative of companies like Kroger that are willing to partner to improve the lives of others. We know that food impacts the quality of our health, our land and our communities, and we continually seek out opportunities to share that message with individuals at risk of hunger and chronic disease through the Cooking Matters at the Store program. Together we are working to eliminate food insecurity and promote healthier shopping and eating habits,"Michelle Moskowitz Brown, Executive Director, Local Matters.