Twenty-two Washburn University faculty and staff members took a unique field trip last Tuesday to the local Hy-Vee, Inc., a health food store. The trip was scheduled by the university’s employee wellness coordinator, Celeste Ehrenberg, and included Washburn employees from departments all across campus.
The employees were treated to a guided tour of the store by Hy-Vee dietician Amber Groeling. The focus of the tour was the store’s newly developed nutritional scoring system, NuVal. Groeling explained the NuVal system is based on a nutritional scale from one to 100, where one is the lowest and least healthy option and 100 is the healthiest value achievable. The nutritional value is determined by several health factors. Foods with large quantities of fiber, proteins and assorted vitamins will have substantially higher scores, while foods that contain more fats, salts and artificial sweeteners will have their scores dropped down.
Because not every product has been scored, the store continues to receive new scores every two weeks. The plan is to have the entire stock scored by the end of year. Even the employees are looking forward to receiving the new scores.
“We’ll get the granola bar scores in March,” said Groeling. “I’m really excited for that.”
No one should be intimidated by the nutrient counting, even if it seems confusing at first. When the items are rung up during checkout, the total NuVal score of a purchases prints at the bottom of the receipt. NuVal is not designed to be a rigid diet; rather, it is there to give a general idea of food’s health value.
Another interesting feature of the store mentioned during the tour was the “health market” section, which consists of varieties of completely organic and gluten-free foods. There are even all-natural nut dispensers where nuts can be bought unroasted, unsalted and unadulterated by the ounce. The health market is for anyone trying to eat healthy and organically, but it is specifically geared toward customers who have certain diet-related issues, such as diabetes or gluten allergies.
Ehrenberg, who lives blocks from the store, decided Hy-Vee was a great place to tour because she’d never shop anywhere else.
“I would live there,” Ehrenberg said.
The other participants were enthusiastic about the store, but somewhat more skeptical about whether they would shop there in the future. The distance from the university and employees’ homes presented a challenge for many of the tour attendees.
“If they made healthy food cheaper, maybe,” said Jewel Makda, a law school library employee.
Most agreed that although they may not choose to grocery there often, it was a worthwhile experience.
For more information about Topeka’s Hy-Vee, visit the store at its location at 2951 S.W. Wanamaker. To learn more about the NuVal nutrition scoring system or the nationwide chain of Hy-Vee, visit the store’s Web site at www.hy-vee.com.