This Mom Wants Candy and Tabloids Out of Grocery Store Checkout Lines
Lifestyle| | By Brian Delpozo
Michigan mom Jane Kramer is calling on grocery store chain Meijer to remove candy and tabloids from their checkout lines.
With the rising rate of obesity among American children, the classic idea of “candy near the register” has come under fire in recent years. According to a study published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “The placement of food and drinks in the checkout aisles of retail stores is a powerful form of marketing that contributes to food environments that promote unhealthy eating and diet-related disease.”
Alarmed by the prominence of these unhealthy snacks and worried about her young son, Kramer has launched a petition on Change.org calling for Meijer stores to remove snacks and tabloids in exchange for healthy fruit options and educational books.
In regards to candy and other snack foods, she writes:
“We’ve all stood in the checkout aisle — tired, hungry and faced with a wall of candy, soda and chips. Retailers know we spend a lot of time at checkout and they are counting on us to buy impulsively… With high national rates of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases due to poor nutrition, why are unhealthy foods being so strongly promoted at checkout? Meijer should adopt healthy checkout lanes to promote the health of its customers and communities.”
Regarding the tabloids, Kramer continues:
“Checkout aisles are also flooded with tabloids and magazines obsessed with body image, gossip, and adult-themed topics — placed directly at the eye level of children. Replacing such magazines and tabloids with educational, age-appropriate children’s books/magazines would provide children with something enjoyable to read and it would be 100 percent in line with Meijer’s core values — ‘We believe in treating each other with dignity and respect. We are committed to strengthening the communities we serve.’”
The petition, which is addressed to Hendrik Meijer, the co-CEO of the chain, isn’t the first time Kramer has reached out to Meijer regrading unhealthy snacks. According to Good Housekeeping, she did so five years-ago to no response. Her current petition has met with much greater success. As of January 9, the petition has over 1,160 signatures, approximately 340 away from it’s goal of 1,500.
Frank J. Guglielmi, senior director of communications for Meijer, released an email statement to the Lansing State Journal regarding the petition.
“Our customer base is very broad and diverse and we work hard to ensure our offerings appeal to the millions of customers who come through our doors each week,” he wrote. “We are also passionate about offering healthy choices throughout our stores and we appreciate Ms. Kramer’s passion as well.”
Kramer spoke to Your Daily Dish regarding the petition’s origin, and the thought process behind it’s creation:
“The CDC states that “prevention should be a top priority, especially among young children and pregnant women. It is easier and more effective to prevent unhealthy weight gain than it is to reverse it later.” They go on to say that, “while personal responsibility is an important consideration in obesity prevention, the choices families and youth make are impacted by where they live, learn, work and play. In many neighborhoods, healthy foods are scarce and more expensive, while cheap processed foods are widely available and heavily marketed.” So again, let’s start by removing junk food in the checkout aisles, where we spend 5-15 minutes each week, often tired and hungry. The reality is the majority of people want to eat healthier food – especially millennials who will be driving the food market even more in the coming years. However, it is easier said than done, especially when faced with sugary, fatty foods in checkout. We may think we have control over these purchases, but research shows these are additional purchases, not planned purchases. In other words – impulse buys. If we’re going to get caught up in impulse buying at checkout, let’s at least make it healthy!”
“And then there’s the issue of tabloids and magazines. Some people think it muddies the issue, but I would argue that these two issues go hand-in-hand. Checkout is flooded with tabloids/magazines obsessed with body image, gossip, and adult-themed topics – placed directly at the eye level of children. Certain women’s magazines promote unrealistic standards of beauty and weight which can fuel food-related eating disorders, especially among younger populations. The tabloids echo this theme by attacking people for being “too fat”, “too thin”, being sick, or for any number of trivial reasons. The overall message is that our merit is based on how we look and what we weigh. There are no doubt various emotional responses to these messages, but I’m guessing few, if any, are improved upon by the availability of an abundant amount of candy, pop, and junk food. So how can we create a healthier atmosphere in checkout?”
“We should be providing healthy food choices in replace of junk food, candy and soda. We should remove tabloids and instead provide age-appropriate reading material for kids to look at while we’re checking out and/or to buy, if we can afford it. Why do all the checkout aisles have to be exactly the same? Why not reduce the amount of food and provide a more diverse range of reading material for everyone? How about magazines that cover science, history, art, nature, sports, music, fly-fishing, woodworking, cookbooks etc.? How about highlighting selected books from local reading programs and products, foods, and publications made in Michigan? Again, why do all aisles have to be the same? I have some knowledge of how slotting and placement fees work, but if it’s set up so that only the companies that produce junk food can sell their products in ALL the aisles, while leaving no opportunities for other companies that produce healthier foods, then maybe the system is broken and it’s time for a redo.”
Kramer also took time to respond to the idea, often posed by opponents of the petition, that the snacks and etc. should remain in the checkout aisle and parents should learn to “say no.”
“When some people hear about the petition, they immediately turn it into a parenting issue instead of focusing on our nation’s obesity problem. So I think it’s only fair that I clarify a few things: My son is 13. He’s a great kid! He used to ask for candy when he was younger, but I never had trouble saying “no” to him (or myself) in the checkout aisle or anywhere else. Nor would I judge anyone that does. I don’t need Meijer’s help in parenting or teaching my son values. I can do that myself. I’m not asking for a “safe place”. I’m not trying to “bubble-wrap” or “shelter” my son from reality. We’re exposed to it the minute we walk out the door. I have enough “teachable moments” throughout the store before I get to checkout and everywhere else I go once I leave. (Good Morning America seemed to think this was THE answer, without even mentioning obesity.) I like my Meijer store and don’t want to shop elsewhere. I don’t want to use curbside. I don’t think parents should have to leave their children at home to go grocery shopping as a way of avoiding the annoyance of the checkout aisle.”
“Yet some people suggest it all boils down to “just saying no”. But what if sugar really is as addictive as drugs like heroine and cocaine? (as some studies suggest) And what if sugar is as harmful as Gary Taubes claims in his new book The Case Against Sugar? We should be creating opportunities to make healthier food choices instead of having to navigate around the junk simply because “that’s the way it’s always been.”
Kramer finished by explaining what her endgame goal for the petition was, telling YDD, “This isn’t an all-or-nothing petition. I don’t care if it’s a few aisles or all aisles – anything would be a step in the right direction. In the end, Meijer will do want it wants. Until then, I’m asking people across the country to sign, whether or not they shop at Meijer, whether or not they believe some but not all aisles should be healthy, and even if they’re OK with the candy but not the tabloids, and to state this preference in their comments as other supporters have done. I’m hoping that it will demonstrate to retailers everywhere that there is indeed a need and support for healthy checkout aisles. I would also encourage people to petition their own stores. CSPI is a great source others may be able to add their petition to CSPI’s movement to get junk out of checkout through change.org. Or they sign CSPI’s petitions to Kroger and Walgreens or sign their action alert to eleven national grocery store chains. Hopefully these petitions, along with stores like Aldi changing to all healthy aisles by the end of 2017, will motivate more retailers to rethink their checkout aisles.”
Our thanks to Janet Kramer for taking the time to speak to Your Daily Dish on this topic.