Monday, March 17, 2008

Child-Friendly Grocery Stores?

I'm just starting to hear some whispers of a new trend in supermarkets - the child-friendly checkout aisle.

Are checkout aisles currently child unfriendly?

Ummmmm yeah I'd say so.

Turn to your right and you're surrounded by candy. Turn to your left and you're surrounded by glossy diet magazines, gossip and stories about how to be sexier in bed.

Remove the candy and the magazines and voila - child-friendly checkout.

To that end, yesterday I sent off a letter to Loblaws (Canada's largest grocery store chain) asking them to consider making at least one checkout aisle per store child friendly. I'll be sure to share their response with you.

If you'd like to send a letter in support of this idea, feel free to click here to email customer service and investor relations at Loblaws

Here's mine,

Dear Loblaws,

I know health matters to you. Your President's Choice Blue Menu line, overseen by Dr. David Jenkins, is a great example of how the food industry can partner up with health professionals to provide consumers with generally healthier choices, all the while helping the food industry with sales.

I'm writing to ask you for your comments on a growing trend in Supermarkets and that would be the existence of "child-friendly" checkout lines where confections and magazines were not part of the walk-through experience.

Confection wise - we live in a world where childhood obesity is on the rise. While I certainly don't lay blame on checkout lines for rising rates, for parents harried by bored children to buy them a chocolate bar giving in is often the easiest option. Not being surrounded by chocolate and candy options while waiting to check-out certainly would decrease the frequency of this happening and potentially make family shopping a healthier, calmer, more pleasant experience.

Glossy magazine wise - the media dramatically influences our children's body images and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the majority of their early exposure to such magazines may take place in supermarket checkout lines. Unhealthy body images abound in young children with studies suggesting that half of young girls aged 6 and above want to change their appearances. Given that the bulk of the glossy magazines in checkout aisles detail how to flatten, firm, or trim various body parts along with photos of the requisite ultra-slim model, navigating these lines can be difficult. There's also really no need for my young daughters to read headlines such as, "Sex Shockers Things He Doesn't Know About During the Deed That you Really Really Need to Know", "How Long Should You Wait to Sleep with a Guy?", "The Harmless Habits that Turn Men off to you", and "Naughty Sex Tricks (Let out your inner bad girl)". Those headlines by the way all come from the April 2007 edition of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Having at least one family friendly checkout line per store would allow concerned parents the ability to stand in a child-safe line, and may in turn increase traffic to your store, help your customers improve the health of their families and most certainly would be something news worthy.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter as are the readers of my blog where I've also posted this letter.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, MD CCFP Dip ABBM
Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute

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  1. Great post, Dr. Yoni, I'm always happy to meet/find people who are health-conscious and able to see beyond the brainwashing, bestowed upon us by media and governments. With appreciation,

  2. I live in Australia, and was surprised to read your post.
    Child friendly aisles are something I totally support and they are something a number of the store's here (KMart, BigW and similar) have had in place a number of years.

    I used to dread grocery shopping with my daughter until the child friendly register aisle was introduced. It would usually result in the "I WANT...!" demands upon spying the chocolate, gums and other candies.

    Will be reading with interest, to see what sort of reply your letter receives.

  3. I know what you mean. All of these magizines can really influence young minds. I'm not sure how the family friendy cheekout lane would work. It might have the longest line in the store, but it is a great idea.

  4. That was a great blog Yoni! I also support the child-friendly supermarket isles...not only at the grocers, but at all the retailers. It would be nice to see many many more retailers take note that candy and magazine garbage does not belong in the checkout.

    I hope you get a positive response to your well written letter!

  5. Cool Blog!! And the part about the ridiculous articles in women's magazines is oh-so true!!!

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  6. You might include a statement like, "and make sure this check-out line is always manned." I believe they tried to do child friendly check-out lines in America but the manager would make sure that line was rarely if ever manned.

  7. What is in a Pound?

    by Cheryl A. Moore
    MEDT 6401 UWG

    “So what we have is the widespread use of hormones to artificially increase the weight of beef cattle and decrease the amount of time it takes for them to reach the desired weight. These hormones, both natural and artificial, are almost all similar to estrogen and have similar effects in both cattle and humans”
    (Retrieved from
    On March 18, 2008) .

    Ezra Klein is a staff writer at The American Prospect. His work has appeared in the LA Times, The Guardian, The Washington Monthly, The New Republic, Slate, and more. He's a frequent guest on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews. He cooks a mean stir fry.
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    E-mail Ezra.
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    Is it possible that what the children are eating today may also have an affect on the children being overweight?

    Retrieved from on March 18, 2008. this report talks about the average height and how income and diet affects how tall or short a given population is. These children who are overweight are they taller or are shorter than the previous generation? How is the study conducted. This study was conducted by Mary Eschelbach Hansen, Department of Economics, American University and Farley Grubb, Department of Economics, University of Delaware. Visit this site to get more information. Perhaps there are several factors which affect the weight of children today.

  8. I totally agree with the child-friendly store checkout concept. I never really gave it much thought before but you are right. Some of the garbage Cosmopolitan headlines truly are inappropriate, not just for the kiddies but for most of the rest of us!! lol Our children are exposed to so much garbage on TV. Even at school, an entire afternoon will be devoted to a "rally" in the auditorium, whereby some company or other sends an over-the-top spokesperson to whip our kids up into a frenzy about selling door to door in order to win "cool" stuff. Aside from the fact that the "cool stuff" is plastic landfill junk, the kids come home all fired up and talking about little else but "Why can't I go up and down the street knocking on doors asking people to buy my stuff??" They are supposed to be in school to LEARN. NOT sell a bunch of junk for some shady outfit.

  9. Interesting.

    You may ask Loblaws why they discontinued these checkouts. Child friendly/candy free checkouts were in place around 10 (?) years ago when my children were young, but I haven't seen them in quite a while.

    They did not last long. I guess they did not generate enough revenue or became a problem for staffing.

  10. i hate taking my kids with me to the supermarket for exactly the reasons you mentioned