The cool breeze emanating from the open dairy case brushed against my face as I set down my supplies: a large storage bin labeled dairy, a cooler bag full of mango smoothie, and a foldable wooden table.
Unpacking quickly, I tried not to block the eager shoppers crowding the aisle. I set out my smoothie samples and info cards, taped up signs, and prepped my stack of cheese stickers. Finally, I slid my foam costume over my head. I was now ready to assume my persona for the day: The Big Cheese.
Jokes and comments started rolling in from curious customers as soon as the costume was on: “Hey cheese lady!”, “What’s up, Big Cheese!”, “You look grate!” and my personal favorite: “ I hope they are paying you double for that!”
One could say I was a real crowd cheeser.
More often than not, however, shoppers were curious as to exactly why I was dressed as a cheese slice.
This was exactly the reaction my supervisor and I were hoping they would have when we were brainstorming costume ideas for Solid Ground’s Grocery Store Tour. Me dressing as cheese would not only draw laughs, but more importantly it would entice people to go on our Shop Smart tour.
Every couple of months, Solid Ground’s Community Food Education (CFE) team hosts a Shop Smart tour to educate people about nutrition and budgeting at the grocery store. Tour-goers learn about the five food groups featured on MyPlate and about ways to save money at the grocery store. At the end, they receive a $10 gift card for their participation.
The tour’s target audience is people who use EBT cards, which are colloquially called food stamps. To help make sure they are reaching their target audience, Solid Ground recruits tour participants ahead of time and also hosts tours at stores that have high percentage of EBT transactions. My fellow interns and I arrived at Solid Ground just as the CFE team was gearing up to host the August Shop Smart event, so we were able to take a pivotal role in helping facilitate it. I was tasked with making costumes for the event, which is how I ended up as the cheese slice.
As The Big Cheese, my role was to man the dairy station. From 11am to 3pm, I played my part, educating people about avoiding saturated fat and excess sugar while also highlighting ways to cut costs, such as buying in bulk and checking the unit price. I handed out samples of the smoothie and traded shopping tips with tour-goers. When the clock hit 3pm, I was slightly sad to take off the costume.
The end of the tour signaled not only the conclusion of a project I had been working on all summer, but also reminded me that the days I have left at Solid Ground* are numbered. As I head into my last week as an intern, I am grateful for all the experiences I’ve had at Solid Ground, from helping out at cooking classes, to hanging out at Marra Farm, to spending the day as The Big Cheese.