Family night at the supermarket

April 17, 2012

Studies suggest that a family eating dinner together is less likely to have children with weight problems. Supermarkets can help families develop this routine by hosting family dinner nights.

It isn’t breaking news that childhood obesity is an epidemic in our nation. And as the First Lady has been promoting her Let’s Move campaign to improve the nutrition of children, we’ve also been seeing more schools, nutritionists, and parents discuss endlessly how to tackle this problem. And even though recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the obesity rates leveling off, those numbers remain high with childhood obesity tripling over the last 30 years.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers analyzed data from over 8,000 children born in 2001 focusing on four year-olds and the impact three family routines had on their weight: eating dinner as a family, getting adequate sleep and limiting their weekday television viewing time. They found that for households that practiced these three routines, there was almost a 40% lower prevalence of obesity.

As it pertains to what you as a supermarket can do to help these families, we’d like to focus on one of those important routines - eating dinner as a family. Anyone who manages a household with children knows that making this happen can be tricky, particularly when so many parents are both employed. It’s one challenge to actually get the whole family to sit down together for a meal and another challenge to make sure that the food is nutritious and appealing for everyone.

Many supermarkets are expanding their stores to include an extensive line of prepared foods, and they are building attractive dining areas where customers can enjoy a meal at the store. Supermarkets can take advantage of this by hosting family nights. Let’s say once a week or once a month the store promotes the idea of families sitting down for a meal together. Attract customers with deals on nutritious prepared foods, family forms of entertainment after or before dinner, dietitians talking to children about nutrition, fellowship with other families, and extra points added to their club cards.

And here’s another idea to emphasize the importance of healthy eating. Create a kids club that allows children to accumulate their own reward points when they eat something from a list of nutritious items in the prepared foods section. Maybe after they reach a certain amount of points, they can trade them in for a dessert.

Supermarkets can often times position themselves as the flagship for the community, particularly in smaller towns. If your customers sense that you care about their families and are offering programs to enhance the community, they will be more likely to remain loyal and not only see their local store as a place to shop, but also as a place to congregate and mingle with other members of the community and also learn health and wellness habits that improve their lifestyles.