SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The California Department of Health Services is ringing in the new year by continuing a campaign dubbed California Project LEAN (Low-fat Eating for America Now), which uses supermarket aisles to teach its constituency about the importance of healthy eating.
The goal of Project LEAN's retail program is to help consumers learn how to make healthy food choices. Through a joint effort with the Golden State's supermarket operators, the campaign promotes healthy, low-fat eating as a way to improve health and reduce the risk for major diet-related chronic diseases.
Project LEAN provides retailers with window signs, radio tag lines, brochures, grocery bag artwork, newsletter articles, drop-in advertisements and low-fat recipes. The state provides the materials on disk to retailers free of charge, but the supermarkets have to do their own printing and distribution of the materials.
Among the stores participating in the 1996 campaign are Lucky Stores, Nob Hill Foods, Save Mart Supermarkets, Raley's/Bel Air Supermarkets, Albertson's and Trader Joe Co.
Project LEAN began in 1989 as a joint effort between the state, the Bay Area Cancer Coalition and Safeway to develop an in-store lean-meat nutrition education program. Now in its second year as a full-fledged, store-wide program, Project LEAN now centers around the New Year's and Cinco de Mayo holidays.
"We picked those two holidays because they are very popular and there doesn't seem
to be much going on in the way of other campaigns, like 5 a Day," Peggy Agron, marketing and media specialist for California Project LEAN at the California Department of Health Services here, told SN.
Agron said the state expects healthy, low-fat eating to reduce California health care costs over the long-term by improving the health of the general populace.
Retailers contacted by SN said they were participating to different degrees, and several are using Project LEAN to supplement their own nutrition programs.
Ruth French, consumer relations manager at Modesto, Calif.-based Save Mart Supermarkets, said her chain is promoting Project LEAN via full-page ads, a 'Smart Saver' supplement and its in-store satellite broadcasting vehicle.
"Project LEAN had done some evaluating, including pre- and post-interviewing at our stores, and their results show an increase in customer awareness of the Project and of lower fat. But in our stores, the sales of nonfat and lower fat items are increasing anyway, so it is very difficult to determine any one reason why," she said. Susan Kennedy, advertising coordinator for Nob Hill Foods, Gilroy, Calif., said her chain is using Project LEAN as a supplement to its own five-year-old Health Check program which includes shelf tags for low-fat and reduced-fat items, as well as brochures listing the items.
Felicia Weaver, manager of advertising and marketing at Albertson's Northern California Division here, said Albertson's will be using Project LEAN recipes and logos in a series of theme ads, such as a seafood sale.
"This is the first year we are doing California Project LEAN at the store level. It will be in addition to our Slim Down campaign in which we run ads that emphasize healthy products," Weaver explained.
Meg Woodard, divisional dietitian at Lucky Stores' Southern California Division in Buena Park, Calif., said this is the second year Lucky is participating in the program.
"We basically are just putting the brochures in our stores, and for the first time we will be putting Spanish language brochures in some of our stores that are in heavy Hispanic areas," she said.
Agron said Project LEAN has not teamed up with manufacturers and is instead concentrating its efforts on retailers.