grocery shopping

Extension Team Developing Game to Help Consumers Understand Food Labels

man shopping in a grocery store aisle
(Stock photo via Anthony Albright, Flickr/Creative Commons)

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.

Holiday Food Shopping on a Budget

grocery store shopping cart filled with food
Photo: Flickr, Phil Gold

It is that crazy, stressful expensive time of year.  But planning for that holiday meal shouldn’t be on that list.  Here are a few steps to help ease the process and cost:

  1. Clean out the refrigerator and freezer of unneeded or wanted items. This will make room for items for the big meal.  Also it will let you know which items you already have and don’t need to purchase.
  2. Go through the pantry to double check items you may need for baking (flour, sugar, baking soda or powder) or additions to the main meal.
  3. Look through the grocery store flyers either in the paper on online. This will help to plan what you will make for your meal. For example turkey is at its lowest price around Thanksgiving, beef and pork roasts in December, and ham around Easter. The store flyer may have a coupon for more discounts.
  4. Have a good idea how much money you have budgeted for this meal, some adjustments can be made by the number of people attending. If you can’t swing a big meal keep it small and invite others over for dessert. Another way to reduce cost is to have guests bring side dishes and desserts. It really takes the financial burden off the host and everyone feels more involved in the meal.
  5. Keep your menu seasonal! Vegetables and fruits that are in the holiday’s season are the best choice to stay on budget.
  6. Finally stick to your shopping list and your plan. If you have questions about how much meat you will need for each guest talk to the store butcher, he/she will help you stay on budget.

For more resources, including recipes, visit https://efnep.uconn.edu.

By Erica Benvenuti