The eXtension Foundation selected a team from UConn Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources for the New Technologies in Agricultural Extension catalyst program. Team members are working with wrap-around services from eXtension to develop an interactive learning experience for consumers on navigating food labels in grocery store aisles.
Conflicting information causes 80% of consumers surveyed to be confused and doubt their food choices (International Food Information Council Foundation, 2018). Food labels often confuse consumers. There are different types of labels; those required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), those administered by organizations, and optional labels from manufacturers and distributors. Non-FDA labels cause the most confusion.
Label components required by FDA include: the product name; the total amount in the package; the nutrition facts; a list of ingredients and any allergen statements; and the manufacturer or distributor information (ESHA Research, 2019). Non-GMO, natural, and organic are examples of labels administered by other organizations that can confuse consumers.
Game design will provide consumers with a shopping list and they will browse the store for products and earn points while playing that lead to badge levels. Choices within the game dictate the products participants see. The game will be available in English and Spanish.
The expected release date for Navigating the Grocery Store: Understanding Food Labels is August 2021. Extension professionals nationwide will have access to the game. Team members are: Joseph Bonelli, Cristina Connolly, Jennifer Cushman, Sharon Gray, Michael Puglisi, Robert Ricard, Stacey Stearns, and Cindy Tian. The educators represent the Extension, Animal Science, Agricultural and Resource Economics, and Nutritional Sciences departments in the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Contact Stacey.Stearns@uconn.edu for more information.