NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart and Bi-Lo Supermarkets have revved up their 5 A Day educational programs this year, starting with a tie-in to Dole Food Co.'s annual Creative 5 A Day Teacher of the Year Awards.
The two chains joined Dole in honoring this year's winning teachers by "adopting" their schools to help them support 5 A Day activities. In that regard, the retailers respectively have awarded the schools $1,000 and $1,500 gift certificates redeemable for fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year.
Two elementary school teachers, Dawn Dupre, a second grade teacher in Sulphur, La., and Kathleen Elam, a K-6 science teacher in Spartanburg, S.C., share the top honors this year.
Wal-Mart and Bi-Lo officials made the gift certificate presentations -- Wal-Mart to Dupre and Bi-Lo to Elam -- at the 5 A Day Teacher of the Year ceremonies.
Officials from both chains said they have been looking to get more aggressive in their 5 A Day educational efforts and this provided a good launch to the next level of activity. Wal-Mart, for example, is in the process of developing a corporate-directed program to get all its produce managers involved in conducting 5 A Day tours in their stores for local schoolchildren.
"This is the beginning of what we hope will be a very successful program for us. We've been working with Dole on 5 A Day and we have the 5 A Day signs in our stores, but we want to develop 5 A Tours in all our superstores," said Dan Butler, produce buyer for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer's Opelika, Ala., distribution center.
"Wal-Mart loves to get involved in the community, and the 5 A Day message is such a positive one," he added.
While Bi-Lo began conducting 5 A Day tours a couple of years ago, it recently relaunched the effort, in conjunction with Dole, with a sweep of new training for its produce managers. "Anytime we can do anything with the school or the community, it's a plus for us. And this is a great opportunity for us to show children how to pick out produce items. If they start doing this as children, they'll carry it on with their own families," said Donna Waldrep, public affairs and marketing manager, at the 290-unit Bi-Lo, Mauldin, S.C.
"The gift certificate is just a small gesture we're making to help the school itself with 5 A Day activities," she added.
The Creative 5 A Day Teacher of the Year award is a national award presented by Dole Food Co., Westlake Village, Calif., to educators whose outstanding curricular activities motivate their students to eat five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Teachers are nominated by their peers.
"Dole is thrilled to recognize these educators who make 5 A Day a priority throughout the school year. The winners are recognized because their influence has extended beyond their students and classroom to reach the entire school, the students' families and the community," said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health at Dole.
"We're especially happy to have Wal-Mart and Bi-Lo join us by adopting these teachers' schools. Last year, Wegmans [Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y.] adopted a school in Buffalo, where last year's first-place teacher taught," DiSogra said.
Dole, a founding member of the National 5 A Day for Better Health Program, launched in 1991 by the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, has sponsored the Creative 5 A Day Teacher of the Year award annually since 1997.