If “you are what you eat,” then Lake Region IGA in Hawley, Pennsylvania is putting its money where its mouth is. This year marks the second year of offering health education classes, taught by Diane Ambrose, a certified health coach and fitness trainer.
Ambrose, who started her career as a dental hygienist before switching gears about 10 years ago, started working with the IGA store a few years ago as a consultant. At first, her role involved setting up tables in the store with information about healthy eating. Ambrose would talk with the customers and distribute recipes and other handouts.
Last year, with the store’s blessing, she branched out into monthly workshops. The first one was called “100 Best Foods for Health and Longevity,” and that topic was presented once a month throughout 2019. Ambrose covers about 30 of the 100 best foods in the hour-long class, and participants leave with handouts to take home that provide additional information.
Those classes were so successful, the store is offering a new session throughout 2020 titled, “Making Healthier Choices.” The first two took place January 23 and February 20.
For content, “Healthier Choices” starts with how to read a food label. “A lot of people don’t understand what to look for with regard to how much fat, sugar, etc. they should be eating,” Ambrose says.
She follows that up with a walk through the store, identifying the healthier options in each department.
The classes are posted on Facebook and in fliers placed on the store’s bulletin board and in other spots around the community.
Whether she’s teaching a workshop or standing at an information table, Ambrose has noticed that people enjoy having recipes to take home and try. According to Irene Cooper, project manager for Lake Region IGA, the classes are a win for everyone: the store pays Ambrose to run the classes, so the customers can take them for free. And the store benefits from increased sales.
“It has boosted produce sales because typically people in the class go shopping right after class,” says Cooper.
As for the store’s selection of healthy options, Ambrose give them high marks. “They’ve brought in a lot more organic and healthy food choices. I think they are doing really well with it.”