Food Country USA in Saltville, Va., may be laid out like many other grocery stores, but it stands out among the rest because of the care toward its customers.
“I think our people are unique, the employees are definitely unique here. It’s more of a hometown feel for sure,” store manager Jeff Eldreth said.
A founding partner
The store has been a Shop Smart, Eat Smart (SSES) healthy food retail initiative partner for two years, making this store one of the first to do so. One of the most positive aspects of the partnership, Eldreth said, is that it shows people that eating healthy on a budget is not only possible, but also delicious.
“I’m really proud to have Food Country USA as one of the first stores to do this,” Eldreth said. “I think it’s really encouraging to show people that you can eat healthy and it doesn’t have to be boring and bland. “
Food Country has plenty of variety to make healthy meals at home, including pre-cut items such as fruit and vegetables. It also stocks pre-packed salad and other ingredients to make fresh, family-friendly recipes.
The SSES connection
Andrea Wann, Family and Consumer Science (FCS) and SNAP-Ed Agent with the Virginia Family Nutrition Program, regularly hosted food demonstrations at the store before the coronavirus pandemic. Eldreth said that those recipes were always a hit among his customers, and that Wann had a great connection with them.
“The recipes that you guys do a great job with […] show people that eating healthy–fruits and vegetables–doesn’t have to be boring,” Eldreth said. “You can jazz it up.”
Food demonstrations won’t be available until it is safe to do so, but Eldreth said that customers are already asking when there will be more.
“Customers look forward to [Andrea] coming in and a bunch of them have asked me since COVID hit when [she’ll] be back with recipes, so they definitely enjoy that,” he said.
The store will continue to host free, socially-distant SSES events. The next one is Oct. 8, where customers will choose which of two healthy snacks are more affordable. The free event hosted by Wann starts at 2 p.m., and all participants will receive a complimentary measuring spoon/cup set. Eldreth is excited to continue offering these events for his customers to continue building the strong partnership with the SSES initiative.