After having made her mark on school lunches, you know, replacing mac n’ cheese for quinoa salad thereby leaving kids across the nation hungry and unhappy, first lady Michelle Obama is moving on to bigger and better things, it seems.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is suggesting major changes to grocery stores to “nudge” Americans to purchase healthier foods when they shop.
The agency commissioned an “expert panel” to make recommendations on how to guide the more than 47 million Americans on food stamps into spending their benefits on fruits and vegetables.
The group released an 80-pagereportthis month presenting their ideas, which include talking shopping carts and a marketing strategy for grocery chains that would feature better store lighting for healthier items.
To encourage Americans, including food stamp recipients, to purchase and eat healthier foods, USDA has come up with a few suggestions, including “SNAP-Ed cooking classes,” and consultations with dieticians in grocery stores, a point system whereby shoppers could receive perks like movie tickets for buying healthy food, and of course, the talking shopping cart:
The “MyCart grocery cart” would provide dividers for shoppers to make sure they are selecting enough items in each “MyPlate” category, the USDA’s food icon.
“MyCart is a nonfinancial approach that would use behavioral economics to encourage healthier purchases by any consumer, including SNAP participants,” the report said.
The cart would be color-coded, physically divided, and have a system installed so that when the shopping cart reaches its healthy “threshold” it would congratulate the customer.
“The algorithm would group the purchases to classify them using the MyPlate designations and to provide consumers with a message of support or encouragement (e.g., “You achieved a MyCart healthy shopping basket!”),” the report said.
And the cost? Oh, a measly $30,000 for every store.
Whether or not you’ll find yourself using a talking shopping cart in the near future remains to be seen. More likely, shoppers will be confronted with one of the agency’s other, more realistic nanny state marketing schemes, which is sure to make Michelle O happy.
The USDA said the ideas are “intended to change the choice architecture of the food retail environment to make healthier choices more prominent,” which is in line with first lady Michelle Obama’s stated second term agenda to “impact the nature of food in grocery stores.”