ST. PAUL, Minn. -- To mark Organic Harvest Month this month, the Organic Alliance here has launched a school program targeting more than 10,000 students in St. Paul, Minn. Partnering with Cub Foods, and its 32 stores in the area that have Naturally Cub stores-within-stores, the Alliance is distributing its organic activity book to all students in grades 4 through 8. Some food manufacturers have also gotten involved with couponing of products available at Cub units.
"I think it really targets our core consumer, which is moms with kids," said Ed Ambrose, category manager for the Naturally Cub sets.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture funded the Organic Alliance to develop this pilot program, which will be expanded to a national level next year.
"It's a big deal, and we are excited about it," said Angela Sterns, executive director of the Organic Alliance. The Alliance is looking for retailers in other cities that would be interested in trying the program.
Four hundred teachers in 60 schools received a packet with suggested lesson plans and class activities that will go along with the books, which have won raves from other retailers who have seen them. "Our primary purpose is to educate students about organic farming, organic foods and organic products overall," Sterns said.
"Kids, and everybody, learn so much better when they see how it impacts their own lives. I felt it was vitally important for them to know where to get the products, and Cub Foods agreed to sponsor the program locally," Sterns continued. The chain sponsored the four-color, "Organic Fun & Games Factivity Book," which uses games, puzzles, stories, recipes and coloring activities to teach about the organic growing process.
In the packets that went to each teacher, Cub Foods included a letter that informed teachers that Cub is committed to offering choices to its customers, organic being one of those choices. Cub Foods encourages students to go to the store to complete the "Grocery Store Organic Scavenger Hunt" in the book, which includes finding products, reading labels and understanding what's organic and what isn't.
Coupons for free organic Country Choice cocoa were included in the packet, along with $1 discount coupons for Richard Scarry organic cookies, organic milk and any New Organics product, which includes pasta, pasta sauces, salsa and tortilla chips.
This promotion will have a great potential impact not only on the schoolchildren but also on their families, the teachers and their friends and families, Sterns said.
Sometime in November, one class will win a classroom creativity contest and winning students will all get a T-shirt made of organic cotton, plus a visit with Terry Ventura and an organic farmer, who have pledged to spend time with the kids. Terry Ventura is the wife of Jesse Ventura, governor of the state of Minnesota, and has an interest in both organic food and education, said Sterns.
"It's our vision to get this book out across the country," Sterns said. "We will be looking for retailers. If any of them would like to explore this in their area, they may contact us."
The organic industry always gears up for Organic Harvest Month, which is in its ninth year. According to the Greenfield, Mass.-based Organic Trade Association, the celebration is designed to focus attention on the benefits and practices of organic agriculture and to encourage consumers to increase their use of certified organic products.
As a result, various retailers, organizations, food co-ops, farm groups, and communities around the country are planning special celebrations during September to celebrate Organic Harvest Month. "These are seen as an ideal way to share information with consumers on what organic stands for and what organic products are available," said Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the OTA.