Decoding the Grocery Store

Marion Nestle is stumped.

We have entered a Safeway supermarket in Berkeley, Calif., and this noted scholar of American nutrition can't make head or tail of the place. "Very unusual--not very inviting," she sniffs, eyeing checkout counters that seem to pose a barrier to entry. "Where's the produce?" It is then that we realize we have come in via the exit. We re-enter through the correct door, and at once the layout conforms to the immutable laws of grocery-store geometry. The colorful produce and flowers pull us into a world of plenty. Now Nestle is in her element. An N.Y.U. professor,...

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