By Allison Kuhn, MS, RDN, LD, Director, Retail Nutrition Solutions for the Kroger Company
Here at Kroger, our purpose is, quite simply, to feed the human spirit. The healthcare practitioners inside our stores live this purpose through their mission to simplify healthcare and connect with people on an emotional and personal level. One of the most personal and emotional facets of health is food, and who is better poised to simplify food and nutrition than a registered dietitian?
In 2016, our team of in-store dietitians partnered with local community organization Easterseals serving Greater Cincinnati to plan and execute store tours for adults living with a developmental disability. As part of the program, groups of participants joined our registered dietitians in the aisles of our Kroger stores to learn how convenient, easy-to-prepare foods can be part of a balanced, health-forward eating pattern. As part of these tours, the participants received education and meal-planning guidance, and had the opportunity to ask questions of a registered dietitian specially trained in food retail.
Easterseals was able to fund the tours by leveraging health and wellness-focused grant funding. A grant from Bethesda Foundation Inc. to Easterseals funded the creation of a wellness program to determine if a health curriculum in a lunch and learn format would address the health concerns common to individuals living with developmental disabilities. Subsequently, Hatton Foundation awarded Easterseals a grant to expand the original project to allow for individuals to learn how they can find and incorporate healthy lifestyle choices in their own communities, which is where the Kroger dietitian partner project was born.
“The grant from the Hatton Foundation basically let us take our classroom on the road,” said McHaffie, Easterseals Addressing Health Disparities Health and Wellness Instructor. “The partnership with the dietetics program at Kroger was better received than we could have imagined. The dietitians were engaging as we toured the store and made a point of providing real solutions to how to eat healthier. It was one of the highlights of our outreach program.”
For retail dietitians looking for ways to support their local communities with store-based nutrition activities, health and wellness grant funding related to mutually beneficial partnerships is a promising route to pursue.