Healthy Food Retail



The Healthy Food Retail (HFR) Working Group is a team of researchers and leaders working on healthy food retail related issues and who are committed to improving the health of children and their families through improved research, evaluation, and dissemination of healthy food retail strategies. The working group is a collaborative effort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research (HER) program and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (NOPREN).

Membership in the working group is open to all with an interest in obesity and nutrition in the food retail setting, including research focused on shifting consumer purchases toward healthier foods and beverages that align with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) and to increase demand for these options. The primary population of interest is children, ages 0 to 18, and their families, especially in lower-income and racial and ethnic populations at highest risk for obesity. Settings of focus include a variety of retail outlets, e.g., supercenters/big box stores, supermarkets, grocery stores, corner stores, bodegas/tiendas, convenience stores, farmers’ markets, dollar stores, drug stores, and online food shopping. The working group is also interested in the role of retail food sources in relationship to other aspects and levels of the food system (e.g., wholesalers, manufacturers).



The mission of the HFR Working Group is to build a network of researchers and leaders from academia, non-profit organizations, government, and other funding agencies focused on increasing the quantity and quality of research in the area of childhood obesity and nutrition in the food retail setting to:

  • influence purchases by children and their families toward healthier foods and beverages that align with the DGA by increasing demand for these options;
  • improve access to healthier foods and beverages by working directly with retailers; and
  • facilitate the development and implementation of evidence-informed policies.

Special emphasis is placed on equity and addressing the needs of those at highest risk for obesity, especially lower-income and racial/ethnic populations.


Key Activities and Findings

Overall Goal: To identify the most effective strategies to shift consumers away from purchasing and consuming unhealthy, energy-dense foods and beverages, and instead toward purchasing and consuming healthier foods and beverages that align with the DGA, by designing, conducting, and disseminating research in the food retail setting on how to increase access to and demand for healthier options.

Longer-Term Goals:

  1. Develop a HFR research agenda to facilitate desirable changes in the food retail environment to improve the availability, accessibility, appeal, affordability, image of, and demand for healthy products
  2. Generate interest in HFR research by documenting and making the case for its relevance to overall obesity and related chronic disease prevention and control efforts
  3. Build evidence to support changes to HFR policies, environments, and practices
  4. Increase funding for HFR research
  5. Increase the number and capabilities of HFR researchers
  6. Increase the amount and quality of HFR research
  7. Affect change in national, state, local, and tribal policies to improve the nutritional quality of foods and beverages purchased by children and their families
  8. Increase access to and sharing of measurement tools and surveillance data/systems through (e.g., web-based platforms, NCCOR’s Catalogue of Surveillance Systems –, NCI’s Measures of the Food Environment –

Meeting Frequency and Format:

Full working group meetings will consist of a joint speaker series held every 1-2 months. The topics for the speaker series will be decided by the two working group leaders and the leaders of each of the three subgroups (Methods, Retailers, and Policy).  All working group members are encouraged to join these meetings.

After each speaker, there will be a group discussion to determine if further steps need to be taken on the speaker topic. Subgroups will meet at the discretion of the subgroup leaders to delve deeper into topics discussed at the joint speaker series, or on other topics determined by the subgroup. Subgroups may select projects or products to pursue, including papers for publication, grants to write, and/or research to conduct. If you are interested in learning more about current projects of any of the subgroups – please contact the subgroup leaders listed below.



Download the Healthy Food Retail WG Overview  for more information

Gittelsohn J, Rowan M, Gadhoke P. Interventions in small food stores to change the food
environment, improve diet, and reduce risk of chronic disease. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:110015. DOI:


Click on the dates below to view recording of each presentation. Click on the presentation title to access the PPT slides.

Healthy Food Retail Working Group


October 2020: How SNAP’s Online Transition is Impacting Health, Equity, and Privacy (Kathryn C. Montgomery, Ph.D., Katharina Kopp, Ph.D., Jeff Chester, MSW – Center for Digital Democracy)

Executive Summary Report: Does buying groceries online put SNAP participants at risk? How to Protect Health, Privacy, and Equity

August 2020: The Economics of Convenience. The Economics of Corporate Social Responsibility. Two Important Topics for Food Retail Analysis. (George Davis, Virginia Tech)

June 2020: COVID-19 Retail Food Implications: Speaker Series Part 1

Webinar Description: In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing a variety of food and nutrition related implications. We see changing consumer purchasing habits, lack of access to staple items and an increased demand for new behaviors that help keep us and our food supply safe.  In turn, this impacts not only what we buy, but how we cook and prepare foods – and ultimately what we eat – while at home. Second, more and more data indicates that those with diet-related chronic disease are at greater risk of serious COVID-19 consequences.  In this webinar, we will hear more detail about these two issues and important potential solutions from Dr. Alexandra Lewin-Zwerdling, Owner of Fruitful, a consulting business specializing in food and nutrition, and Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean, Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

April 2020: Snap2Save – Driving Healthy Food Purchases Benefiting Consumer and Retailers (Sam Jonas)


August 2019: Behavioral Interventions to Improve the Quality of Grocery Shopping (Carmen Piedras-Sanchez, University of Oxford)

June 2019: Land Use, Regional Planning and Community Development Financing to Stimulate the Development or Renovation of Healthy Food Retail Options in Underserved Areas

Panelists: (click on each panelist’s name to view their PPT slides)

Ross Daniels, Public Health Law Center
Matt Norris, Urban Land Institute
Caroline Harries, The Food Trust
Donna Leuchten Nuccio, The Reinvestment Fund
Yeeli Mui, University of Buffalo, Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab

April 2019: Lessons Learned from Evaluating the Implementation of a Healthier Checkout Initiative (Barbara Baquero, Caitlin Simon, Michele Polacsek, Leah Chapman, Molly De Marco, Lucia Leone, Betsy Anderson Steeves)

February 2019: The Effect of Local and State Minimum Wage on Food Prices and Adult Health (James Buszkiewicz, Jennifer Otten)


December 2018: Update on the FDA Nutrition Innovation Strategy (Robin McKinnon)

October 2018: Building a Healthier Convenience Store: Why, How, and What’s Next? (Jeff Lenard, Vice President of Industry Initiatives – National Association of Convenience Stores)

April 2018: Online Grocery Shopping: Promise and Pitfalls for Healthier Food and Beverage Purchases (Stephanie Jilcott-Pitts)

January 2018: The Costco Effect: Exploring Outshopping Behaviour in Rural Retail Food Environments (Catherine Mah, Dalhousie University)


September 2017: Here Comes the Neighborhood: A Conversation with Varish Goyal, President of Loop Neighborhood Markets

May 2017: ‘SSB Taxes and Preemption’ (Jennifer Pomeranz)


October 2016: ‘Digital Food Marketing in the Big Data Era: Recent Developments (Jeffrey Chester, Lori Dorfman) and Berkeley Soda Tax & Implications for Retail (Jennifer Falbe and Kristine Madsen)

June 2016:Healthy Food Retail Intervention Strategies’ (Collin Payne)

February 2016: “Food Retailers and Disparities in Nutritional Quality of Household Food Purchases”


October 2015: Summary of Supermarket Scorecard Findings

Healthy Food Retail Working Group: Policy Subgroup

February 2017: ‘SNAP and Local Supermarket Access’ (Parke Wilde) ‘Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Taxes, Consumption and Obesity’ (Lisa Powell)

May 2017: ‘How are SNAP Benefits Spent? Evidence from a Retail Panel’ (Jesse Shapiro)

August 2017: Presentation by Tufts/UConn RIDGE Center Grantees 

October 2017: ‘Proposed Changes to SNAP-Authorized Retailer Requirements and the Availability of Staple Foods in Small Stores Located in Low-Income Chicago Communities’ (Chelsea Singleton)

Healthy Food Retail Working Group: Retailers Subgroup

December 2016: A Conversation on the Retailers and Academic Collaboration Experience (Collin Payne and Pay N’ Save)

March 2017: Barbara Ruhs, MS, RD, LDN, Retail Food and Health Expert

May 2017: ‘Behavioral Economics and the Healthy Retail Environment: Examples from the Field’

Grocery Retailer Academic Collaborative Guidelines (GRAC) 

July 2017: ‘Next Steps for the GRAC Guidelines: Setting the Agenda for 2017-18

September 2017: Testing the Effectiveness of a Supermarker Double Dollar Incentive Program to Increase Spending on Fruits and Vegetables (Michele Polacsek)

November 2017: Making the Healthy Choice the Convenient Choice (Caitlin Simon, Partnership for a Healthier America)

Healthy Food Retail Working Group: Methods Subgroup

November 2016:The Healthfulness of Food and Beverage Purchases after the WIC Revisions’

March 2017:  ‘Valid Brief NEMS Tools and Retail Beverage Environment Surveys (NEMS-B and NEMS BPP)’ (Karen Glanz)

July 2017: ‘Measuring In-Store Marketing in Retail’ (Jennifer Harris)

September 2017: The Grocery Purchase Quality Index – A Tool for Assessing Household Food Purchases (Patricia Guenther)


HFR Working Group Leaders

Shannon Zenk, PhD, MPH, RN, Professor, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago (

Joel Gittelsohn, PhD, MS, Professor, Global Obesity Prevention Center, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (

HFR Subgroups and Leaders:

Methods for Assessing the Retail Food Setting

  • Lindsey Smith-Taillie, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health (
  • Lucia Leone, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions (

Working with Retailers and Reaching Consumers

  • Barbara Baquero, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor, University of Washington School of Public Health (
  • Betsy Anderson Steeves, PhD, MS, Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee Knoxville (

Identifying Policies to Support Healthier Consumer Purchasing Patterns

  • Elizabeth Racine, DrPH, RD, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte (
  • Sheila Fleischhacker, PhD, JD, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown School of Law (


For more information, please contact:

Kirsten Arm, MPH, RDN

Research Analyst, Healthy Eating Research