father and daughter produce shopping
Submitted by Dr. Michael Schwandt, Medical Health Officer

This year, Fraser Health Public Health has launched pilot projects in three small to medium-sized retail stores in our communities to encourage people living in our region to select healthier food choices.

We know that food is a key contributor to a person’s well-being, and unhealthy eating habits are widely recognized as risks for disease. That is why we’ve launched these projects in our communities as a stepping stone for people to begin thinking of ways they can incorporate healthier foods into their everyday diet.

Chronic disease rates in Fraser Health vary, but our regional rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes are higher than the BC average. Risk factors for these diseases include excess weight and unhealthy eating.

In fact, communities across Canada and North America are changing food retail environments to support public health and strengthen local economies.  Research has shown that consumers are also seeking healthier options - there is a movement in consumer preferences towards less processed food, as well as increased demand for convenient or pre-prepared food that is nutritious.

Fraser Health is rising to this challenge by helping to shape local food environments in our communities. Currently, the project is running in three stores: Samba’s Convenience Store in New Westminster, Red Rooster Convenience Store in White Rock, and Shoppers Drug Mart in Willoughby Town Centre in Langley.

In each of these three stores, shelf signage is attached below food items that have been identified as healthier options within existing product categories. Fraser Health has provided each store with posters to raise awareness of the project and flyers are also being circulated in some local newspapers. In the Langley location, an end-of-aisle display showcases a selection of healthier options that will be rotated to feature different items in alignment with seasonal and store promotions.

Ultimately, one of our project’s major goals is to help retailers identify healthier items to market, and to increase the likelihood that customers will choose to purchase healthier options when buying food, drinks or snacks. By visually showing people how they can make healthier options while grocery shopping, our hope is that by making these small changes they can improve their overall health.

When the project concludes in December 2018, we will evaluate the results and will determine how this initiative could be successfully implemented with other retailers and in other communities in our region.

Learn more about how to make healthier food choices here.

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