One of the biggest obstacles to selling health and wellness in communities like Indianola, Miss., is knowledge. According to a recent study from the Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit, a project of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, 78% of people surveyed in the Mississippi Delta region rated their understanding of proper nutrition as fair or poor. Only 12% were able to correctly identify the USDA's food pyramid.
These results reflect an alarming lack of self-awareness, according to Scott Miller, co-owner of Indianola's Sunflower Food Store. For most of these people, healthful living begins only after there's a problem.
“The people who come into our store asking about low-sugar products are the ones who have to because they're diabetic, and the ones who come in asking for low-fat options are the ones with heart problems,” he said.
To help his customers think preventively, Miller and his team run in-store programs that include healthy seminars, blood pressure screenings and sampling of products like diet soda and baked chips.
“Our challenge is, how do we make it interesting for people to want to do something about nutrition?” asked Miller.