Ensuring Healthy Foods, Nurturing Healthy Neighborhoods
Kalusugan Community Services conducted a Healthy Eating Campaign (HEC) project from 2006 to 2009 funded by The California Endowment. The aim of the project was to prevent overweight and obesity in the Filipino American population in South Bay and North County (Mira Mesa). This was accomplished by working with grocery and restaurant owners to increase the healthy options sold in groceries and eating places. As part of the campaign, HEC advocates conducted an assessment of the healthy foods available at Seafood Cities located in National City, Chula Vista and Mira Mesa. As a result of the assessment HEC advocates conducted grocery tours for the public to show them the available healthy choices in grocery stores. This article shows the results of the assessment and gives recommendations on how to shop healthily and how owners can promote healthy shopping.
In 2010, the HEC campaign was expanded to include physical activity, thus, the name change to Healthy Eating Active Living Campaign (HEAL). This project also conducts grocery tours and the first one was held in November 20, 2010 at the Seafood City in National City. The next FREE GROCERY TOUR & FOOD DEMO will be on:
DECEMBER 18, SATURDAY, 10 AM to 12 NOON
PLACE: Seafood City, National City
AGENDA: FOOD DEMONSTRATION AND GROCERY TOUR
FREE FOOD, RECIPE BOOKS, HANDOUTS, GIVE-AWAYS
FACILITATORS: VICTOR PAZ AND DR. OFELIA DIRIGE
CALL KCS (619) 477-3392 TO RESERVE YOUR SPACE
GROCERY TOUR ASSESSMENT
Before Seafood City became the Mecca of all things Filipino here in the Southland, Filipinos were content with the likes of Woo Chee Chong, Vons, the old Safeway, and small Asian grocery stores for their vegetable, meat, and fish needs. And although Woo Chee Chong was located near downtown, Filipinos would still seek out the place for good bargains and fresh supplies.
The arrival of the Seafood City chain of supermarkets in the 90s at the center of large Filipino populated areas such as National City, Chula Vista and Mira Mesa, changed all the dynamics and with the arrival of Ranch 99 in Clairemont perhaps helped write finish to the Woo Chee Chong dominance and eventual closure.
Such as is the huge impact Seafood City has had in the expanding Filipino and other Asian communities particularly in the Southbay. The giant supermarket is very popular and is frequented by thousands everyday. The stores are clean, orderly, and provide fresh supplies of fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat. Of course, they also carry frozen imported items from Asian countries to complete ones shopping experience.
With the quality and variety of products Seafood City offers, it could easily be a source for healthy eating for Asian communities who is beginning to understand the impact of their adapted new cultures to their health.
Kalusugan Community Services (KCS) Wellness Center understands this dynamics. Through its expanded new project, the Healthy Eating Active Living Campaign (HEAL), KCS wants to help Filipino Americans (FilAms) in San Diego from becoming overweight and obese through behavior modification. The original Healthy Eating Campaign (HEC) project is a broad-based coalition of 25 advocates whose goal is to increase access to healthy food in neighborhood settings in National City.
By changing their eating habits and activity patterns, KCS through HEC hoped to impact certain statistical facts about FilAms. According to the American Cancer Society, this year, an estimated 40,640 women will die from breast cancer and 3,670 women will die from cervical cancer in the U.S. While these numbers are still staggering, the rates show a downward trend when compared to previous years. The numbers for Asians, however, and most especially for Filipinos paint an opposite picture. Such is the irony that KCS wants to bring out that while cancer as the cause of death among mainstream Americans is decreasing, it is actually increasing as cause among Asians including Filipinos. It has become the number one killer of FilAms.
Grocery store assessment:
As part of the HEC KCS staff, Dr. Ofelia Dirige and Marybeth Bautista conducted an assessment of the healthy options available in three grocery stores and two convenience stores in National City between September and December 2006. The assessment consisted of visiting these stores to determine the healthy options sold using an assessment form to record information. If we had any questions regarding the products we simply asked the sales clerk; thus, it was not necessary to interview the owner.
The assessment tool used was the form developed by the Nutrition Environment Measurement Study (NEMS) based in Atlanta, Georgia. It was modified and adapted for use with Filipino foods available in FilAm supermarkets. In the form, we recorded the day and time we visited the store or had interview with the owner. To ensure confidentiality, each store was labeled with an identification number that only the assessors knew.
The form determined the availability and price of the low fat items versus the regular items. If the preferred item or size is not available, an alternate item was selected. For fruits and vegetables, the quality of the products was also noted whether acceptable or unacceptable. The healthy food items assessed were: 1% low fat or skim milk; fruits (bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, cantaloupe, peaches, strawberries, honeydew melon, watermelon and pears); vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, sweet peppers, broccoli, lettuce, corn, celery, cucumbers, and cabbage); 90% lean ground beef; Oscar Meyer fat free or reduced fat wieners or hotdogs; low fat baked goods such as bagel; diet Coke;100% fruit juice; whole grain breads; baked Lays potato chips; and healthy cereals
Results showed that all grocery stores had the following items: whole and low fat or skim milk, regular and low sodium soy sauce, diet coke, and 100% juice. Two stores sold brown rice and baked chips. Only one store carried regular and fat free hotdogs and whole wheat pan de sal. All the stores had numerous varieties of fish sold.
All the stores carried the following fruits: bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, and watermelon. Two stores had cantaloupe, papaya and mango; and one store had peaches and strawberries. No store sold honeydew melon and pears. Bananas, apples and watermelon were of acceptable quality in all the stores. Only two stores had acceptable quality of grapes and only one store had acceptable quality of oranges, cantaloupe, peaches, strawberries, papaya and mango.
All the stores had an abundant supply of the following vegetables: carrots, tomatoes, sweet peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bitter melon, eggplant, chayote, string beans or long beans, and bok choy. Two stores carried lettuce, celery and cucumbers; and only one store had corn. Only the following vegetables were of acceptable quality in all three stores: tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, bitter melon, eggplant, chayote, string beans, and bok choy. Only two stores had acceptable quality of celery; and only one store had acceptable sweet peppers, lettuce, corn and cucumbers. None of the stores had acceptable quality of carrots.
Results from the convenience store survey showed that healthy items sold were definitely less in number than what is found in the regular grocery store. Only bananas, diet coke, and regular chips were sold in all the stores. Only one store had whole and low fat or skim milk, regular soy sauce, 100% fruit juice, baked chips, apples and bananas and vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, sweet peppers, celery, cucumbers, and cabbage. None of the stores sold whole wheat or regular pan de sal and brown or regular white rice.
We conclude that FilAm grocery stores had an abundant supply of healthy foods such as fish, low-fat or skim milk, fruits, vegetables, low sodium soy sauce, diet coke and 100% fruit juice. Only two stores sold brown rice and baked chips; and only one had fat free hotdogs and whole wheat pan de sal. Some of the fruits and vegetables in one or two stores were not of acceptable quality.
Convenience stores offered less healthy choices. Only bananas and diet coke were found in the two stores; and only one store had low fat or skim milk, 100% juice, baked chips, apples, bananas, and vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, green pepper, celery, cucumbers, and cabbage. None of the stores sold whole wheat pan de sal.
Recommendations for shoppers and owners to promote more healthy options:
Buy healthy items such as fish, fruits, vegetables, low fat or skim milk, low sodium soy sauce, diet drinks and 100% fruit juices. Owners should highlight these at the point of purchase as healthy options.
Use brown rice and fat free hotdogs. Owners should prepare it deliciously , giving samples and having customers taste them as they shop at the market.
Buy baked chips and whole wheat pandesal or breads. Owners should prepare samples and have customers taste them.
Buy more fruits and vegetables. Owners should sell those of acceptable quality.
At convenience stores, look for healthy items such as bananas, diet drinks, low fat or skim milk, 100% juice, baked chips, more varieties of fruits and vegetables, and whole wheat breads. Owners should sell more of these items.
Colorful fruits and vegetables that Seafood City sells are good sources of wide range of vitamins, minerals, fibers, and phytochemicals that our body uses to maintain good health and energy levels, protect against the effects of aging, and more importantly, reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Seafood City has abundant stocks on display shelves, common rainbow colors of fruits and vegetables of primordial concern because of their affordable prices and good quality. Customers can easily be focused on these varying colors and their benefits through special presentations (i.e. fruit or vegetable of the week) highlighting their benefits. For example, purple fruits and veggies such as eggplants, plums, purple fleshed potatoes and purple cabbage (for salads) are good sources of health-promoting phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and phenolics currently being studied for their antioxidant and anti-aging benefits.
For greens, Seafood City boasts of a large array of fruits and veggies: kiwis, green apples, honeydews, avocados, limes, leafy greens, spinach, okra, green onion, and many more. These food sources also contain excellent phytochemicals such as lutein and indoles both touted by researches for its great potential antioxidant and health-promoting benefits.
When shopping at these supermarkets, it is easy to find these colorful items because each store follows a similar arrangement. When looking for yellow fruits and veggies such as cantaloupes, oranges, mangoes, yellow-fleshed potatoes, persimmons, and many other yellows they will be easily found. Yellows are good sources of vitamin C, carotenoids, and bioflavonoids all good antioxidants and health-promoting benefits.
We have not even mentioned about the red apples and white potatoes, garlic and mushrooms all great sources of either lycopene, selenium, or other phytochemicals which are abundantly stocked by these stores. How about those delicious-looking fresh salmon and golden pompano? Well, we can go on and on but there is a point to all these.
So with such great promise, Seafood City with its large arsenal of healthy products would jump on the opportunity to impact peoples health and particularly Filipinos who frequent their stores. The management and staff of Seafood City had been cooperative in allowing us to conduct food demonstrations and grocery tour for the public to show them the healthy options available. They have realized the great opportunity to help in promoting healthy eating in the Filipino community of South Bay and Mira Mesa.
Please come to the next grocery tour on December 18, Saturday, from 10 AM to 12 noon at the Seafood City in National City. It will be a fun and learning session. Call (619) 477-3392 to let us know you are coming.
Author: the late Dr. Riz A. Oades. Contributors: Dr. Ofelia Dirige, Marybeth Bautista and Al Villamora. Reprinted from the Asian Journal, February 15-21, 2008. Revised by Dr. Dirige, December 13-17, 2010.