Earth Fare to Roll Out Kids' Healthy Eating Program

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Southeastern organic/natural supermarket chain Earth Fare here is gearing up to roll out its kid-focused healthy eating program chainwide, the retailer told Progressive Grocer yesterday. The initiative includes cooking classes for children, shelf tags that designate "healthy" items, and a membership club that rewards kids with good-for-you treats like fresh fruit.

The program, called "Red's Eat Right Club," has been running on a test phase in several stores since last August, Troy DeGroff, Earth Fare's director of sales and marketing, said. The retailer plans to implement it in all of its 13 stores beginning next month. The program centers around a cartoon mascot known as "Red, the tomato-headed boy."

DeGroff explained the steps Earth Fare has taken to develop its initiative: "We began by identifying organic and natural alternatives for kids to eat, and took that to the school system in Charlotte, N.C. But they wanted to know what dietary standards our recommendations were based on. So we've gone back and cut down the items based on the guidelines in California State Bill 19, which basically limits the amounts of fat and sugar that are fed to kids in school."

The chain will continue to promote organic and natural versions of foods whenever possible, noted DeGroff. Parents will be able to locate these products with tags that designate them "Red-approved."

The children's cooking classes, which are held on Saturdays, are designed to improve children's understanding about nutrition and help them explore new foods. For example, in one class children were given a citrus grove to grow.

Kids who join Red's Eat Right Club will receive a prize each time they visit Earth Fare, said DeGroff. Prizes may include stickers, coloring sheets, or of course, healthy foods.

Earth Fare operates 13 stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.
-- Jenny McTaggart
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