Publix to present in-store cooking demonstrations
Publix Super Markets announced Thursday it will soon stage a number of in-store cooking demonstrations that feature Florida-grown agricultural products and stress healthy living.
Starting this spring, Publix, the largest supermarket chain in Florida, with 730 stores across the state, will hold Simple Meals demonstrations where shoppers can see local produce being used to make healthy dishes.
Recipes used in the program will be available in the store’s produce section.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has worked with Publix before to stress the importance of the state’s produce industry. In the past, the two have hosted in-store demonstrations, advertising campaigns and retail incentive programs.
“We’re very pleased to again partner with Publix to promote Florida-grown products,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson. “This is an exceptional opportunity to highlight Florida’s early-spring harvest of fresh produce.”
The effect of agriculture on the state economy is staggering. According to data from the department, the overall impact of agriculture on Florida’s economy is $103.6 billion. The industry directly employs 418,003 Floridians.
Farms in Southwest Florida contribute $8.41 billion into the state economy and provide 184,877 jobs, according to 2007 figures outlining the economic effects in the region around Sarasota.
Overall, the state has 24 million acres of forests, croplands and ranches that support a number of industries, including fruit farming, floriculture, vegetable farming, forestry, logging and sugarcane farming.
Fruit farming — specifically the harvesting of oranges, grapefruits and tangerines — is the state’s largest industry, contributing $2.59 billion to the economy and accounting for 50,189 jobs.
Publix is committed to stocking its shelves with Florida-grown produce and has more than 600 recipes in its Simple Meals program.
According to spokesperson Shannon Patten, it is a way to bring families back to the dinner table.
“We have the kiosk and someone is standing there cooking something and serving up samples,” she said. “We incorporate fresh Florida produce into that program.”
Patten said the only time the supermarket chain does not carry locally grown produce is when the product does not meet its standards or is something not grown in the state.
In 2008, Publix spent $700 million on fresh produce throughout the state of Florida. Of that amount, $22 million was spent on natural orange juice.
Besides helping people to reduce their time shopping, the program is also a way for families to eat healthier.
Cooking and eating healthy reduces obesity rates, especially among children, and stops people from developing diabetes or heart disease.
Doctors from The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, the only facility for children in the region, are developing a program to help overweight children.
Dr. Asjad Khan, a pediatric endocrinologist, regularly sees children who are at risk for many diseases because they are overweight or obese. He sees overweight children as young as 2 or 3 years old who exhibit early warning signs of diabetes or heart disease.
“It’s important to focus on childhood obesity because the health issues that come along with it, such as diabetes, are so preventable,” Khan said.
Children and teens can be anywhere from 10 to 100 pounds overweight, he said, and while some are overweight because of genetics, others are because of habits.
“This really has to start at a supermarket level, where parents just don’t need to buy junk food for the kids as a snack,” said Khan.