July 22 2014

Pimp My Shopping Cart—USDA Edition

Vicki E. Alger

You just can’t make up this stuff. A new 80-page report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) thinks spending $30,000 for talking shopping carts will change our shopping and eating habits.  Because according to the USDA, the grocery store is now a “classroom” (p. 10), and apparently we have a lot to learn.

The USDA “MyCarts” would be divided into sections separating a variety of healthy foods, colored-coded, and rigged with algorithms capable of determining when shoppers had met their USDA-certified healthy food minimums. Grocery stores would be required to modify their POS systems and aisles according to USDA specifications. A typical grocery store would need to spend around $30,000 for 300 new MyCarts (p. 30).

The MyCarts would even be programmed to “provide consumers with a message of support or encouragement” (p.  29). No word yet on whether shoppers would be sent to the corner for putting food no-no’s in their carts, but the USDA doesn’t stop at micro-managing shoppers.

The USDA recommends grocery stores create “green aisles” stocked with items it deems healthier foods, coordinate sales and promotions with Food Stamp benefits cycles, change shelf promotions, and have dedicated healthy check-out aisles (pp. 11-12).

The Washington Free Beacon reports that:

The USDA said the ideas are “intended to change the choice architecture of the food retail environment to make healthier choices more prominent,” which is in line with first lady Michelle Obama’s stated second term agenda to “impact the nature of food in grocery stores.”…The panel based this approach on a $999,891 government-funded study entitled “Nudging Nutrition,” arguing the research “suggests an intervention of this sort might be successful in modifying consumer shopping behavior.” …when an individual perceives they have the ability to freely choose between options, they are more likely to be satisfied with the choice they make,” the report said.

In other words, the Nanny State knows best—but also knows better than to come right out and say so. Hence all the Brave New World tactics.

But on second thought, maybe the USDA is on to something if it truly wants us to lose weight. All this Big Brother businesses is enough to make any thinking person lose his or her appetite.

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