FoodLink puts information about produce at your fingertips

Think about your recent trip to the grocery store. How did you make decisions on which products to purchase? Of course there are those products you always purchase, and there is little choice in mind; look at the price and load it in the cart.

If there is a choice to be made, perhaps you flipped the product over and read the product label to learn ingredients, nutritional content and even use instructions.

Product labels are a great tool, but guess which products don’t carry a label of any kind. That’s right — all of the fresh fruits and vegetables that are so healthful for our families.

I always ask the question: If you didn’t know how to select, prepare or serve fresh green beans … what is the chance you would actually purchase them to serve to your family?

Everybody knows how to prepare fresh green beans, right? Wrong.

And that is just one example. Do you know the nutritional content of turnip greens? How to make a meal using kohlrabi? How to store raspberries? Surely everyone know how to cut up a melon?

As simple as each of these questions may seem, these and a thousand others are roadblocks to many shoppers making the choice to buy and prepare fresh foods for their family.

Farmers’ market vendors routinely share this “common” knowledge with shoppers in the hope of making a customer happy and increasing sales, but in many other places where food is sold this is not a readily available service…until now … with the availability of FoodLink.

FoodLink is a free tool developed by a team within Purdue Extension to help busy shoppers choose high quality fresh Indiana products over lesser choices and may have less nutritional quality and may not taste as good as those fresh choices.

FoodLink provides vendors access to materials that include so-called Quick Response (QR) codes that are unique to each of more than 40 common Indiana fruits and vegetables from asparagus to zucchini and even honey.

Grocery stores, farmers’ market vendors, farm markets and others simply make the appropriate QR code available to the shopper to scan from their smart phone and allow them to use the clear, concise information that immediately appears at their fingertips to make the decision that is right for them and their families.

FoodLink allows people to use the power of the smartphone and the precision of a QR code to put information quite literally in the palm of their hands as they are making food decisions at the point of purchase.

This code-driven tool will provide immediate access to the user about proper food selection, use, preparation, pairings, storage and a variety of other quickly accessed information including quick and easy recipes that will encourage the incorporation of fresh fruits and vegetables into the diets of Hoosier families. The tool will address the needs of not only home shoppers but also those of institutional buyers with recipes suitable for not only a family of four but groups of 400.

Codes can be reproduced and placed on signage large or small, physically on larger produce (melons and pumpkins, etc.), in print advertisements, on clothing (aprons, shirts, hats, etc.), on boxes used for wholesale shipments and many creative ways that we have yet to identify.

If you are a farmer or grocer, please take a few minutes to take a look at the FoodLink website, purdue.edu/foodlink, to see if it might have benefit to you.

If you are a shopper, please watch for FoodLink QR codes and marketing materials wherever you shop. If you don’t see them there, ask the vendor to go to the FoodLink website.

Due to a generous specialty crop block grant provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and Indiana State Department of Agriculture, there is no cost to use FoodLink.

For more information about how to access and use FoodLink resources in your farm marketing or shopping activities, please contact Roy Ballard, Purdue Extension educator, ANR, Hancock county by calling 317-462-1113 or by email at rballard@purdue.edu