The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Partnership: A Perfect Storm for Fruit & Vegetable Education

Partnership: A Perfect Storm for Fruit & Vegetable Education

Dietitian Dialogues

October 24, 2010

In the nutrition world, registered dietitians (RDs) spend a good deal of time and effort teaching their clients to buy and eat more fruits and vegetables for the nutritional benefits. An outpatient RD, for example, shows her/his clients realistic food models of fruits and vegetables and explains why eating more is a smart move. A community RD at a health fair displays a colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables as a way to reach passers-by with her/his message to eat more. A school system RD dresses up as a silly carrot or banana for an assembly program to promote healthy fruits and veggies to students. Really.

What RDs put together to promote the consumption of healthful fruits and veggies is truly amazing. It’s unique, creative and well thought out. But, RDs can do even better if they think ‘partnership.’ Partnerships are all about putting heads and resources together for a bigger, positive impact on the target client. The synergy of an educational partnership is always stronger than the sum of its parts. 

Supermarkets are the perfect ‘classroom’ for a nutrition education partnership. In produce, a rainbow of color hits the eyes, aromas of ripeness please the nose, a diversity of texture tickles the fingertips, and sweet or bitter is revealed to the tongue. Sensory experiences make learning fun and memorable. Once customers become curious, the rest is relatively easy and awareness and education begin.

To create the perfect storm for fruit and vegetable education, take advantage of traditional supermarket processes, and then weave in your brand, your wellness initiatives and your community. A southeastern food retailer had success throughout the summer and early fall in its produce department by combining three elements of partnership education and information for customers. First, local and seasonal signs were positioned to feature the freshest choices week after week in partnership with a local agricultural coop. Secondly, practical budget tips specific to fruits and vegetables were provided by the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), printed and positioned throughout the department. Thirdly, the print ad was written to feature educational messages about specific produce items with a reminder to contact the company RD to learn even more.

Examples of the budget tips, available from PBH** ( are:

  • Shop in-season. Prices are normally best when produce is in season.
  • Try switching less expensive veggies with meat in your recipes. Think ‘vegetable stew with beef’ instead of beef stew with vegetables.
  • Plan for leftovers. Make a big batch of soups or stews, and freeze leftovers in small, lunch-size containers.

Examples of the educational messages in a print ad are:

  • Zucchini is a very low calorie summer favorite that’s a superstar on the grill. Zucchini comes from the Italian word, zucca, which means squash.
  • Potatoes are a fat free and nutritious choice for vitamin C, potassium and carbohydrates. Boil or grill them with the skin on for the most fiber.
  • Watermelon is a picnic and barbecue favorite that is loaded with vitamins A, C and B6. Did you know watermelon is 90% water? So it helps with hydration in the summer, too.

A perfect storm it was. In an affordable effort, the food retailer communicated a summer-into-fall program of excitement to raise sales. For the employees, education and colorful signage made for some great learning. For the customer, new knowledge was supplemented by a commitment of supporting local agriculture. The growing season is winding down now, and the storm is clearing. In the coming months, however, spring planting will start the cycle once again.

Cindy Silver, MS, RD, LDN is the Corporate Nutritionist for Lowes Foods, a 110-store retail chain based in Winston-Salem, NC. She promotes fruits and veggies to customers all seasons of the year. Reach her at

**Find the PBH retail tool kit at:

As a nutritionist working for a supermarket, you have a unique outlook on how retailers are increasing health awareness at the store level and the kind of questions that shoppers ask. Each month, we'll be featuring a guest column, written by a nutritionist, that communicates this point of view on a variety of topics. And we want to hear from you. If you are a supermarket nutritionist interested in sharing your perspective and insights, we would love to help you share your thoughts! Please contact Allison Bloom at