The “Shop With Your Doc” program lets customers in southern California walk the aisles of their local supermarket with a physician, who offers advice on how to incorporate healthier products into their baskets, according to NPR.
The program, a partnership between local Kroger stores and the St. Joseph Hoag Health alliance, highlights the growth of the food-as-medicine movement, which stresses the importance of healthy eating as a way of preventing disease.
Research is increasingly focusing on the role sugar, fat and salt play in heart disease, diabetes and other ailments, according to the article.
Most supermarkets don’t have a doctor on call. But many do have registered dietitians on staff who promote healthy eating through recipe development, cooking classes, and store tours. Retailers have also worked to make their stores health destinations by offering walk-in clinics where shoppers can get flu shots or visit with nurse practitioners.
The growth of the food-as-medicine movement may highlight an opportunity for grocers to further integrate their health services with the food they sell. By not only promoting their dietitians but also empowering them to steer store health initiatives and product development, retailers can gain a reputation as both health leaders and food purveyors. This could pay dividends in the long run.
A store in Brookline, MA offers an intriguing model for retailer-clinic partnerships. The clinic, operated by the local Brockton Neighborhood Health Center and located inside Vicente’s Tropical Supermarket, offers primary care services as well as dietary recommendations that incorporate store items. Clinicians frequently write “veggie scripts” for customers looking to manage their weight and their blood pressure, for instance.
For retailers and manufacturers alike, the food-as-medicine movement also underscores the importance of labeling products in line with shoppers’ dietary needs. Customers with diabetes, high blood pressure and other ailments often rely on shelf tags and package claims to steer their choices. The increasing role of food in preventing and treating illness may warrant an expansion of these labeling systems. It should also prompt manufacturers to make sure their claims are in line with shoppers’ expectations.