October 09, 2006

'Groceryfest' offers nutrition tips to shoppers

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Hey, you — you with the snack cake! Did you know that if you picked up the individual-size applesauce cup instead you could save nine cents? And 70 calories? AND get more Vitamin C and fiber?

That's just one of the little tidbits a team of Southern Illinois University Carbondale students and their faculty mentor are serving up this month at Groceryfest, an autumn cornucopia of taste-testing, tours and talks (but not too much talking) held at two area grocery stores.

The free event takes place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 14, at Tom's Mad Pricer Supermarket, 503 Walnut, in Murphysboro; from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Kroger's east Carbondale location, 501 N. Giant City Road; and from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, again at Tom's Mad Pricer in Murphysboro.

It's all part of an attempt to get folks to put more fruits and vegetables in their shopping carts, says Sharon L. Peterson, a registered dietitian with a doctorate in human nutrition just hired by the College of Agricultural Sciences' Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition.

"The No. 1 barrier for most people is cost — they say fresh fruits and vegetables just cost too much," Peterson says.

To debunk that notion, graduate student Katherine "Katie" M. Piercy devised a picture show that pits popular junk foods against healthier counterparts. Small piles of coins show that the substitutes cost the same or less, while charts point up the calorie and health differences.

"It's very visual, so it's good for people from different ethnic groups or those with literacy problems," Peterson says.

SIUC senior Kelsey L. Kinsella of Lexington (26377 N. 200 E. Road) is guiding "tourists" through the produce section, introducing less familiar fruits and vegetables and offering advice on everything from picking them to preparing them.

"She's doing a great job, really trying to be a good listener and key in on their questions," Peterson says.

The group will be handing out a peck of picking pointers, healthy snacking charts and recipes for the colorful black bean salad ("Gorgeous and good for you, too!" Peterson says) that they're serving up as the taste of the day.

Peterson hopes a lot of shoppers will stop by their table when they see the display.

"It's an opportunity for the community to learn more about the health benefits associated with fruits and vegetables," she says.

Hey, you — you with the potato chips! Have you heard about the baby carrots?

Serving others is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.