By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Awareness of retail dietitian programs has grown along with the desire for dietetic interns to include a supermarket rotation into their schedule. With a bit of planning you can turn working with interns into a win-win experience.
You’ll first want to consider if you have time to devote to working with interns on an individual basis. Some internships welcome the idea of having a retail dietitian provide an overview presentation to the entire class. It is also wise to consult with your legal department before accepting interns. Some retailers may require a confidentially agreement or documentation from the internship program.
Tina Miller, MS RDN, from Meijer, feels that working successfully with interns requires understanding the goals and objectives of the internship program, the competencies the intern is trying to meet and of course what the intern is passionate about. She adds, “Interns bring a fresh perspective and level of enthusiasm that can be contagious.”
Tina created a template of learning experiences that includes:
Leah McGrath, RDN LDN, from Ingles Supermarkets has been able to create a more extensive intern learning program. She typically works with dietetic interns for about 25 hours per week over a 2-3-month period and Ingles provides compensation. Leah ensures a successful rotation by surveying interns before they begin. She assesses their comfort level with public speaking, writing, food styling, media, social media, and more. “It also ascertains a bit about their knowledge of agriculture, farming and local foods since that’s a big part of my role as the Corporate Dietitian for Ingles. The survey helps me guide the intern and understand where I can focus to improve their skills and knowledge.”
Tina states that mentoring dietetic interns is especially important in the area of retail. “This is an expanding area of career opportunity with very little training built into traditional internship programs. Experienced retail dietitians need to share their knowledge.”