Nutrition in Food Retail: Leveraging RDNs to Improve Public Health

Nutrition in Food Retail: Leveraging RDNs to Improve Public Health

April 8, 2020
Retail Industry Insights

By: Allison Yoder, MA, RDN, LD, Nutrition in Food Retail Program Development Fellow, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation

Consumer interest in the relationship between food and health has continued to increase, so much so that consumers' definition of food value extends beyond taste, price and convenience and now includes health and wellbeing. These trends present an opportunity for retail dietitians to help address the health and wellness needs of their customers. By capitalizing on health and wellness programming, promotions, and value-added services, food retailers can increase their value as both a destination and a partner in their customers’ shopping journeys.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation embarked on a new project in 2019 titled, “Leveraging RDNs in the Food Retail Environment to Improve Public Health.” Support for the project was funded through a grant from Walmart and is being used to develop a framework for food retailers that outlines a landscape for integrating food as medicine within current retail nutrition models. Led by the Nutrition in Food Retail Program Development (NFRPD) fellow, this project includes the following deliverables:

  • Expert Advisory Group – Comprised of 24 individuals from retail, business, health care, public health, and research/education, the advisory group provides expertise on existing programs, emerging models, and needs of retail dietitians.
  • Roundtable Meeting – Convened in November 2019, this meeting was key in identifying how food retailers could implement food as medicine initiatives utilizing RDNs. A proceedings paper from the meeting will be published in 2020.
  • Scoping Review – This research method was used to identify peer-reviewed literature examining food as medicine interventions in retail settings. The Retail Nutrition Programs and Outcomes scoping review will be published in 2020.
  • Food as Medicine Retail Nutrition Framework – This framework will outline the landscape of food as medicine opportunities for food retailers, highlight current programs, and offer guidance for program development. This information will be available to all retailers and RDNs later this year.

As part of the deliverables of the NFRPD fellowship, areas of opportunity within retail nutrition models were identified and additional strategies for action were developed. These strategies will be explored for future phases of the NFRPD project:

  1. Help educate food retailers on Food as Medicine (FAM) and provide support in identifying opportunities for integrating FAM programs utilizing RDNs.
  2. Collect data from FAM pilot programs to inform additional published research.
  3. Correlate dietitian engagement with customer loyalty and health outcome trends in food retail.
  4. Support retail RDNs and future dietitians in gaining a stronger understanding of food marketing and utilizing their enhanced skills to develop and implement programs in the food retail setting.
  5. Explore educational opportunities specific to food retail for RDNs and students.

RDNs in food retail play an essential role in meeting the health and wellness needs of their customers and in impacting the food decisions of shoppers, from shelf to point-of-purchase. Through the NFRPD Fellowship, our goal is to further strengthen the role of RDNs in food retail and support the amazing work of retail dietitians.