MODESTO, Calif. -- Local children received a lesson in the importance of eating five fruits and vegetables a day with the help of Save Mart Supermarkets here, which sponsored a poster contest emphasizing healthy consumption habits.
backpacks filled with dry fruits and school supplies that included "5 a Day" rulers and water bottles. A grand prize winner was also selected and awarded a new mountain bike.
The contest winners were selected from 11 California counties that included Merced, Atwater, Clovis, Fresno, Los Banos, Porterville, Visalia, Madera, Kerman, Turlock and Oakdale. Entries were collected from May 7 through May 31, and the winners were announced in mid-June.
According to Sharon Seiler, consumer relations coordinator for Save Mart, the retailer wanted to remain "kid friendly" and has built such programs, like the poster contest, in order to stay in touch with the younger generation.
"Not only are our children our future customers, but they're also getting very strong handling the clout when it comes to fighting for where the family meals are being eaten or where they're being purchased, be it the fast food or the supermarket," she said.
Save Mart, together with co-sponsor, the San Joaquin Valley Health Consortium, Fresno, Calif., first established a committee to select the posters, comprised of members of the 5 a Day -- Power Play! campaign coalition from across the region, including a number of educators and administrators from children's hospitals.
The poster contest was promoted in-store as well as through the classroom. Entry forms were available at the checkout counters of all participating Save Mart units and sent to teachers to use as part of the curriculum. The contest was also promoted by the retailer's "super friends," employees who specifically educate and talk with children in-store. The super friends passed out contest entry forms to children who were shopping with their parents.
"We have one employee per store who has been trained to do store tours and relate to children on their grade level," she said. "And our super friends really promoted [the poster contest]."
The store tours, a program that allows children to explore the chain's various departments, are very successful at teaching the students about produce and other foods. In the last seven months, about 11,000 children have participated in the store tours, said Seiler.
"If they were third, fourth and fifth graders, we geared [the tour] primarily to produce and actually asked produce riddles and encouraged them to eat more fruits and vegetables," she said. "We call it 'Vitamin Alley.' "
Other "5 a Day -- Power Play!" programs that Save Mart runs include its promotional effort in May during the Sons of the San Joaquin Present Fandango, a festival celebrating California's multicultural history. For the fourth year in a row, Save Mart set up a booth that invited children to match particular foods to their country of origin and gave them samples of dried fruits and refreshments. The weekend event draws more than 10,000 people, said Seiler.
The state's "5 a Day -- Power Play!" campaign promotes the consumption of fruits and vegetables among children by involving various community groups and businesses, including schools, community youth organizations, supermarkets, farmer's markets and food-service organizations.