"I've had customers come up and thank me," he said. "The first day we set up the fruit, I got a phone call from a customer who said, 'Normally, I've got my kids tugging on me in the checkout for a candy bar, but today, on the way home, they're eating a banana. I think that's so cool.'"
It's not just people with kids, he said. "I've had adults point at the fruit and say thank you," he said.
The stores also replaced movie magazines in those lanes with coloring books and toys that cause kids to exercise. "We've sold a ton of jump ropes," Ohse said, "and I'm sold out of punching bags."
Both chains put toys that encourage exercise on dangling clips in the cereal and toy aisles. "We used to have stuff like tattoos," Foodland's Worst said, "but paddle balls sell just as well."
"These stores demonstrate that customers do want these items," the CDC's Payne said, "and [the managers] can prove with sales data that these products do move. So maybe it's something Walmart will eventually get behind on a national scale."
The local Health Department's Change the Future West Virginia program is part of a $4.5 million CDC grant aimed at promoting activities that help residents avoid obesity, which leads to chronic diseases like diabetes.
"Healthy checkouts are part of that," Wentz-Berner said. "We wanted to prove they could work here."
To help the stores get started, the Health Department brought in a dietician to evaluate items. They gave the stores fruit and vegetable display racks to be placed throughout the store.
"We're selling between 40 to 60 pounds of bananas a day in these racks," Foodland's Worst said. "We put a rack of onions and peppers next to the meat, to give people the idea to make a roast, and they buy all the peppers we put out."
Will it spread? Walmart's Nagle said she hopes to open similar lanes in the other three West Virginia stores she oversees, in South Charleston, Ripley and Quincy Mall. "We are doing everything we can to do this right and make a blueprint," she said. "Beyond that, we don't know."
West Virginia's healthy checkout lines are not yet on the Walmart stores' corporate radar screen, cautioned East Coast media representative Bill Wertz.
"It's a local thing," said Wertz, who is based in Massachusetts. "We're glad to cooperate with Change the Future West Virginia, but we haven't gotten to the point where we are thinking about anything more than that.
"But it's early days," he added, "and I wouldn't want to speculate on what might come out of this. Who could say? Who could say?"
This report is written under a fellowship from the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, administered by the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.
Reach Kate Long at katel...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1798.