Stores That Should Not Sell Food

May 29, 2014   50 Comments

Snack Girl loves to shop for certain things. I enjoy looking at power tools, women’s fashion, and swim goggles.

Junk Food in Home Depot

I don’t actually buy power tools very often but when I look at them, I go to the Home Depot or other home store that carries stuff like lumber, paint, lawnmowers, appliances, window treatments, nails, and junk food. What?

Yes, you read it right. When I hit Home Depot for my latest home improvement project, I picked up a Snickers and some Combos because looking at all the stuff makes me hungry.

After shopping at Home Depot yesterday, I dropped by JC Penney because I needed some new shorts, I found this:

I bought some chocolate because shopping for shorts is SO stressful. I got a good deal on the shorts so the chocolate was almost free!

Finally, I needed some swim goggles as summer is coming up and I don’t like to get chlorine in my eyes. And I needed a kick board and some running shoes, which I purchased at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

All that sports stuff made me thirsty, so I picked up a 20 ounce Pepsi at the check out counter.

I only spent $300 and ate 1000 calories – look at me go!

I can’t tell you how frustrated I am by all this high calorie, low nutrition JUNK absolutely everywhere that I look. Here I am, trying to be healthy and it seems that all of the retailers (even ones that don’t typically sell food) are attempting to trip me up.

We are not a nation of people walking around hungry all the time. A recent study says that we have increased our calorie intake by 500 calories per day since the 1970's. Most of us need less food - not more.

Dear readers, I am taking a stand. I found the e-mail for the CEO of Home Depot, Frank Blake and the CEO of JC Penney, Myron Ullman. I found the snail mail address for Edward Stack (billionaire and CEO of Dick’s). I have decided to write a letter of protest to these company heads and ask them to remove the junk food.
Edward Stack
CEO, Dick's Sporting Goods
345 Court St.
Coraopolis, PA 15108

Shouldn’t the impulse items in these stores be tape measurers, nail polish, or pedometers?

How much could this crappy food be contributing to their bottom line? I am doubtful that I will get a response but it is worth a try.

Have you noticed food in stores that shouldn’t be selling it?

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I guess it started with the hot dog cart beside the front door of Home Depot. And it has grown. a lot! This is one reason I choose to shop at smaller, non chain stores. The best way to avoid junk food at the check out is to shop online Oh dear!

would love to some healthy snacks in there for us who are sometimes not prepared for the

on-slaught of junk food no matter where we are.

Remember the slogan, "JUST SAY NO"

A different take on another slogan, "Food doesn't kill people, people kill people."

My slogan, plain and simple is STOP EATING JUNK

Snack Girl, I love love love to read your posts. You always make me smile BUT while I agree that these food items are indeed junk and are everywhere we look, I don't agree that these stores should refrain from selling them. Stores have a right to sell what they want and as Americans, we have the choice to buy or not to buy these items. People should take responsibility for themselves instead of trying to force everyone else to change in order to make it "easier" for them to make sensible choices. Why do we blame the Big Box Stores if WE decide to pick up the snickers bar? Just because it is there, doesn't mean we have to buy it. If I owned a retail store and someone complained about what I was selling, I would kindly ask them to shop elsewhere. It's their choice and their choice should not infringe on my rights to decide what items I sell. I am not saying it's always easy to not buy this tempting junk, but ultimately WE have to make the decision for ourselves to do what's right.

Michael's craft store as well as Justice and Old Navy clothing stores also have candy at check out.

Fran you are sooo right!!!!

SG - You didn't say, but I am assuming there was someone who was forcing you to buy that junk. I see the same items in the stores here however, I simply choose to walk right by that garbage. I don't see why it is the store's fault if people has no self control. This country has developed a dangerous mindset that any bad decision they make is not their fault. If we spent a fraction of the energy we do on blaming others and instead focused on owning up to our choices then maybe we wouldn't have half of the issues we do now.

Thanks for a humorous look at the commercialization of food, SG, it was a welcome start to my day. While I tend to agree with your other readers who point out that no one is forced to buy or eat junk food, I remember your reference in "Snack Girl to the Rescue" to Dr. Kessler's book, "The End of Overeating". I followed your suggestion and bought his book and what an eye opener it is. While he (and you) don't advocate for a nanny state or the end of personal accountability, we can't ignore the food industry has mastered the art of altering brain chemistry by skillfully combing fat, sugar, and salt to create foods as addictive as narcotics. I know I have to be responsible enough to put the fork down, to walk past the junk food without buying it, to bypass the candy dish in the office, and to fill my grocery cart with fruits and veggies, but the continual onslaught of merchandising of JUNK FOOD does not make it easy. When you consider how few of us take the time to read books like yours or Dr. Kessler's, is it any wonder we are an obese nation, trapped in a cycle of eating foods that trigger us to eat more even when we don't need the calories? What changed since the 1970's? Lots, but for one thing, I was never able to buy candy at Penney's or Macy's.

Thanks again for a thought provoking post, keep them coming!

I tend to agree with the group. The stores have the right to sell the junk (not food) in their stores. Its a matter of perception on you buying though. I have changed my mind set to only buy food in food stores. I don't contradict where I by junk either. If I'm in a sporting goods store then I'm not going junk. When a craving comes on I tell myself to get I have to go to where it should be sold at. This takes the fun out of the craving because now I have to go out my way. Nope not going to have it so I get past it. Also, if I need a drink - water is always the go to.

I do not think SG was saying that stores could not sell what they want. In fact, all stores sell what some people want, not just what they want, or they would not be in business. If we, enough of us consumers want something healthy or clever, like a pedometer, at the checkout, then stores will sell it. SG, did you really buy all that junk or are you just suggesting that we who like healthy stuff let the store know? Sure we can just say no, but perhaps stores might make even more profit if they offered different check out products.

First of all, I can't imagine eating a Snickers, Combos, a chocolate bar and a Pepsi all in one short shopping trip, let alone in one matter where it was sold. These items are also sold in the grocery stores where we all shop, so what is the difference? If you were to succumb to that way of thinking, then grocery stores should not be allowed to sell anything other than edible items. This is akin to banning large size sodas in New York. Same as smoking....there are cigarettes behind practically every type of store checkout, but I would never buy them. If you don't want it, don't buy it.

Occasionally I might succomb to a snack attack in say Lowe's (rather than HD), but I agree, people make their own choices to buy or not. If you look at the Pepsi cooler, you will see lots of water (my fav bev besides vino) and who doesn't need an icy cold water after loading up on plants, plumbing supplies and paint? As a sister MA resident, I think our state is trying to legislate WAY too much around lifestyle choices rather than focusing on the big issues like education. Jumping off the ole soapbox, have to say I LOVE YOU Snack Girl! Question - - are you a successful WW lifer?

My son noticed the Godiva Chocolate bar on the counter when we went into Kohl's so that I could buy a slip for an upcoming occasion. I bought the candy bar..$3.50 I could have saved. He quickly forgot about the candy bar and I ended up eating it in a moment of weakness. Lesson learned!

I understand the concerns about freedom and unwanted legislation, but there is also the question of the quality of a shopping experience. What if stores just stuck to their knitting? Rather than offering Godiva bars for $3.50, Penny put out small perfumes or men's socks in bright color? Or Home Depot, put out a mixed-sized nail package or a new type of tape? Just think, who is it really that wants all that junk food in our face?

have some god damn self control jesus! just because its there doesnt mean you have to buy it. these snacks are called impulse buys and you all fall for big businesses trap to get an extra couple dollars out of you before leaving the store.

I think it's funny that people actually think you ate all that junk. I wrote a similar blog a year or two ago because Sears and a few other unexpected stores also sell snacks. I just find it a strange marketing ploy.

I didn't eat all the food - I was trying to be funny and explain how easy it is to eat at every venue that I visited. I'm sorry that my humor missed for some of you. Please continue to discuss this issue in a respectful manner.

I try to pack things to go with me in the car whenever I am out doing errands. healthy snacks, water and save some money for a "splurge" like iced coffee with skim milk and stevia.

Snack Girl - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for the enlightening and ironic start to my day (since I KNOW you didn't buy and eat all the junk that you detailed in your post) - the point was certainly made about how easily these snacks are available to the average consumer (and said consumer's children, who are so often targeted with these products at their eye level)!

Would you consider sharing the email and snail mail addresses of these CEOs for those of us who wish to join you in a letter-writing campaign to let them know that their blatant ploys to increase profits at the expense of the health of their customers have been noticed. While the choice of whether to purchase these "edible" items is certainly up to the individual, having them "in your face" at every turn is unnecessary.

I also recommend to you and all your readers, the new documentary that has just been released, called "Fed Up" which addresses issues just like this. It's no wonder that North America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic when retail giants are more than willing to offer sugary, salty, additive-laden junk food at their checkout counters.

Carry on and fight the good fight, Snack Girl! Health and real food for all!

@Mary Frances - These addresses are publicly available

Edward Stack
CEO, Dick's Sporting Goods
345 Court St.
Coraopolis, PA 15108

Thanks for the address of the CEO's, Lisa! I will write too and tell them how they can do better business!

I think it's extreme to email/mail the CEO's. Like many others, I agree that it's a personal choice and too many freedoms are controlled as it is.

Responses to this post don't have to be disrespectful. Comments like Rex's, above, are extreme and uncalled for, and I doubt anyone would fault you, SG, for deleting it.

Hi all... Thanks Snack Girl -- for the health of my children who area usually with me on all these fun shopping adventures! It is a difficult task to say NO CANDY every time we go to the store - any store (Bed Bath and Beyond- I'm talking to you and your gummy end cap)! At every store we are met with challenges like these mini candy aisles at the HD. The out of sight out of mind principle comes to mind! I am weary of the fight to keep this crap out of my kids hands at every turn. We talk about nutrition and then are bombarded with temptation. Bring on the UNSALTED nuts and seeds for good energy. That would be a better option - don't you think?

Keep up the good fight!

you would think Dicks would at least sell HEALTHY(ier) options... not Mountain Dew!?!?!?!?!?

My local Ace Hardware has a free fill-your-own-bag popcorn thing ... I am generally able to resist! are pretty slow on the uptake!

Could you not see SG's tongue in her cheek?

A lot of people don't get a dry sense of humor, but personally I found this column hysterical!!! Keep up the good work.

i work as a cashier at home depot, on the pro end of the store so i mostly wait on contractors. alot of them grab candy bars as their lunch and its the only thing they will be eating until they get home. alot associates also buy the snacks. i never buy them, but people can buy what they want. that is their choice

I agree with those who say it is our fault for buying junk food.Even tho i am trying to stay away from junk food (other than what i cook of course), i do have dizzy once in awhile. If i get dizzy while shopping i grab a reeses peanut butter cup and that snaps me out of it. So i'am glad that they do sell junk food, otherwise i get really sick.. are t

I certainly agree that everyone has the ability to make choices. However, I think that if you educate yourself on the psychology of where/why these products are placed as well as the psychology behind marketing strategies you would likely be outraged & demand these products be removed. Large companies do not care about people or personal choice, they care about profits. The chemistry & science involved in developing new products & recipes to get us to consume more & more is outrageous. We should all care about the $$ in our pockets & health in general. Make educated choices- don't let these companies & their deceptive practices make them for you. We should especially care about this to promote safeguard our children's future.

Wow, your blog today sure hit alot of nerves. As always it was and is a thoroughly enjoyable read(as well as all of the comments afterward). Keep up the good work!!

Jen, yes I agree about the psychology of marketing, the creation of addictive products, etc. I also use psychology to set my mind on a healthy course every day! Up for a healthy start, walk, breakfast, prep/plan mid-morn mini-meal, bring water, finger food whenever I shop, use chilled lunchbag, reusable food containers, never buy food out, ever, bring lunch if needed, experience health including hunger, etc. I read somewhere yesterday that when your belief system=what you say =what you do then you reach true happiness. I had to agree with that. Consequently I ignore impulse buys of a junk food nature. But some last minute purchase at checkout might be an item I'd be looking for too, which would make it a convenience! [i.e., batteries, superglue] I agree with SG that checkout items would be appreciated if they were more appropriate to the store. Nice subject, good thoughts all around.:)

Lisa I do understand where you are coming from, but is respectfully agree to disagree. Caveat Emptor! Let the buyer beware. Bring an apple and dark chocolate when you shop. Maybe walnuts or cashews. Don't get mad at the causal factors, change the factors, be happy with yourself. Et, voila.

Well, I work at Home Depot and the snacks, although not so healthy have saved me from low blood sugar a few time-s. We had to remove our snack stuff for a while and our customers freaked out. Just say no, Snack

For those who think that it's all about YOUR self control...what about your children? Kids have no self control (they're kids!). Even if YOU have self control, your kids probably will not. I've seen so many times where the kids insists on having this or that form of candy, and the mom eventually gives in just to get them to shut up (perhaps not the best parenting, but seriously, how many parents can deny their kids all sugar and sweets ALL the time?).

And then there are the teenagers who go to stores without their parents. How are THEIR self control?

Stores having all that junk food within easy reach of everyone at checkout feels a lot like "training" for your children - it's like they're saying "don't worry, you should always have access to this crap we want to sell to you and make you grow up diabetic and obese!"

I have to disagree here .. we all have the ability to make a decision on what we buy for food, so just because the food items (candy, chips, etc.) are located in the checkout line at Home Depot - doesn't mean you have to buy it.

Perhaps these snack items are for the hard working guys that do construction. Maybe it's the only time they have in their day to grab a snack. Sure it may not be the healthiest snack, but at least there is an option.


I see water in that fridge at Dick's Sporting Goods. There is no substitute for willpower!

I agree with you that they shoujld not sell them. Perhaps that is the problem...every time I go to stores like Home Depot (which I was surprised when I first saw candy) is "what are we focusing on here!) and I can never get help! Focus on Home products and not food that is why we have convenient stores. We keep saying we are worried about FAT USA is we have too much junk everywhere! Water or soda I can see.

Thanks for the post Snack Girl. I think I might email those CEO's too. While I agree with many that we as Americans are choosing to buy the food, I also think the onslaught of unhealthy foods that are available is ridiculous. some people are simply not as educated about what their food choices do to their bodies, and these stores don't help. I see the mass availability of junk food as repeat advertising. The more you see something, the more likely you are to grab one. I'm sure you had been to other stores that day where you didn't buy junk food. And don't even get me started on vending machines in schools. Our addiction to sugar starts there, when we aren't fully aware of how our choices affect us and there is no one to stop us. Making junk foods infinitely more available than healthy ones is our culture telling us it's okay to eat them, when ever we want, whether we're hungry or not. Becoming healthier Americans is a joint effort, not an individual one. Otherwise, why do all these people read your blog?

I could not agree more with Shelli's comment about 16 hours ago. I don't think we have any right to demand these stores don't sell junk food and the whole reason why they sell junk food is beautifully illustrated by this very post. The challenge is to educate people and help them develop awareness and willpower to keep the junk in check and nutrition aplenty.

(This is a follow-up comment to one that I made earlier)

Wow, Snack Girl! This post has certainly hit a nerve! Since this thread seems to be provoking many comments that are of the "just say no / show some willpower" variety, I would like to draw everyone's attention to a new documentary film that's out in theatres, called "Fed Up".

My husband and I attended the premiere screening of “Fed Up” at the HotDocs Festival here in Toronto in April, and we thought that it was an amazing and important documentary.

I hope that Snack Girl will get the chance to see it, because I believe that the danger of processed foods is no longer just a personal choice but has become a public health (and small-p political issue); adults who believe in the power of good food need to educate themselves about the “other side of the coin” – the systematic damage that junky, additive-filled food is doing to the public, and the responsibility of those who are producing it to take responsibility for that damage (in the words of Mark Bittman, “junk food companies are acting very much like tobacco companies did 30 years ago”).

I would encourage all of Snack Girl's readers to take a look at the official trailer for “Fed Up” ( and decide for themselves.

And I will be taking my 12 year old daughter and 16 year old son to see this film to inform them about the biggest health issue that their generation is now facing.

Hey Mary Frances, I hope to see FED-UP soon myself; in the meantime for anyone interested, there's an excellent presentation of this public health issue, by Dr. Robert Lustig, UCSF, ''FAT CHANCE'' on youtube.

I found it very informative concerning obesity, diabetes, addiction, sugar, etc.

You might be surprised how much this junk food increases their bottom line. There are a lot of hungry shoppers and sure you need to keep up your strength throughout the day. I agree with you though, they don't have to stick it in our faces. I got the information you posted so I can do my part.

I too thought it was weird that places like home Depot has foid, however, being a type 1 diabetic, and having an unexpected low blood sugar (I mean really is any of it expected) I no longer thought the food was unnecessary, but instead grateful it was there since I left my supplies in the car.

I wonder if the core issue is about time. We don't typically honor food's rightful place, as well as the time to purchase good food, prepare it, and/or eat well. Whether running errands or snacking at the workplace, the easy access to highly refined and processed snacks contributes to greater fatigue, reduced productivity, and poor health. We are a nation tumbling towards greater incidence of diabetes and disability-- even in children. Just one more natural consequence when we as a society and as individuals fail to do the right thing.

No one is forcing the junk food down you throat. Who knows how long the chocolate has been sitting there. Eat healthy look forth to a healthy snack or carry it with you when go to these places. Retailers can sell anything that's legal it doesn't mean I have to buy it. I do get the humor but we need to start being smart about how things are marketed to consumers in this country so in that sense the article is enlightening to those who don't understand that they are just trying to separate you from your dollars, that's part of capitalism. Me personally would not send an email to the CEO, these companies can sell whatever they want, I make my own chocolate, it is better then the stuff that been sitting around for weeks, I stop drinking soda and eating fastfood 15 years ago. Once you practice passing these things up it is easily to wait til you get to the healty stuff, it is a practice people, good things in life don't come easily, work with me here.

diane--you said it!! I too, stopped soda, fast food, and unhealthy chocolate, etc. 15 years ago! :)

Oh for christ's SAKE, Sherri, no one's suggesting Federal legislation banning big-box stores from selling snack foods. Of course they have a RIGHT to sell whatever legal items they care to. And, similarly, Snack Girl has the RIGHT -- that whole freedom-of-speech thing, you'll recall? -- to tell the store's corporate owners that she prefers to do her shopping at a place that doesn't present such things.

(My own hardware stores, both the locally owned and the big-box, have wonderful impulse-buys displayed near the checkouts. Tiny tape measures, keychain beer openers with built-in flashlights, boxed sets of miniature screwdrivers.)

@ Cactus -- Love the keychain beer openers idea!! Especially since our church-key bottle and can opener seems to disappear with regularity around our house.

For everyone else espousing willpower, there are some fairly comprehensive studies out there which back up Lisa's point that this type of marketing is doing more harm than good to all concerned. As others have pointed out, it habituates one's brain to the junk food marketing to the point where even the most determined amongst us will find ourselves slipping now and again.

And, for those who suggested that we just stay home and order from the Internet, that's probably more self-defeating. At least when I go to a store, I get out of the house, get to interact with hopefully knowledgeable salespeople, and get some exercise, you know, from walking around the store looking for that hopefully knowledgeable salesperson.

But seriously, these days, I seem to have better luck with brick and mortar stores than the Internet. Yet, like Snack Girl, I'm a bit fed up with corporate America's constant preying on us consumers. Just saying ...

It's no wonder we are a nation of over eaters and obesity. I know it's our choice to say no but it can really be a struggle when they shove it in our face all the time. It's just another way for them to squeeze every dime they can out of us.

I am prepared to catch some noise for this, but my opinion is that with all due respect, every Tom, Dick and Howard on here is MISSING THE POINT.

Of course, you can say no. Of course you don’t have to eat junk. Of course you can just close your mouth and willpower is a thing. The point Lisa is trying to make is the ridiculousness of junky snack food in those retail establishments that shouldn’t even be selling anything edible in the first place. That shops that don’t sell food now (wait for it) sell food? Candy at Home Depot? Really? What do Snickers bars have to do with home improvement? Chips at Michael’s? How are Doritos related to arts and crafts? Better Home Depot should have packages of thumbtacks at the checkout lane, or Michael’s checkout lane should have little bags of sequins, or the checkout lane at Staples or Office Depot should have flash drives or little pads of sticky notes. There is a time and a place for everything, and Home Depot is a place to purchase lumber and paint. That’s that.

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