By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
Since the day I knew Registered Dietitians existed, I always envisioned them working in grocery store settings when I went grocery shopping with my mom. During my Nutrition Sciences degree at the University of Ottawa, I worked part-time as a President’s Choice Cooking School Assistant, since food is a great passion of mine. To my surprise, I saw that there was a new In-Store Dietitian at our Loblaws store and it piqued my curiosity! Before I knew it, I was the first student intern with Loblaw Companies. During my internship, I had a lightbulb moment, and knew that I had found my niche. With a little bit of luck and gratitude, I was awarded a position as a Zehrs Dietitian in southern Ontario upon the completion of my degree in 2013. I followed my heart, took the leap of faith, and moved from my hometown Ottawa, to Windsor, Ontario, to start a career in the retail world of dietetics.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
My biggest challenge would be building my own home in the grocery store. This also includes having to build my own reputation, being the first RD at my two Zehrs stores. I do my best to be a “walking business card” and spread the word about retail dietitians and the services we provide. I quickly learned that one-on-one consults, grocery store tours, workshops, cooking classes, food demonstrations or community outreach presentations, are the best tools to help me build a home and gain respect in my grocery stores.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
Trying to stand out in a retail setting as a health ambassador, when surrounded by a variety of products and naysayers can be exhausting. That’s why I choose to focus my energy on the clients that are ready to receive education, and who truly appreciate my help.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
Yes, uniting forces and building relationships not only with customers but also with community partners and advocates of the in-store dietitian program at Zehrs. Finding these key partners such as dietitians and chefs, has been very helpful as they become an extension of my voice. It’s like having your very own “fan-club”! These relationships have had a ripple effect, and before I knew it, my career has advanced in the media and on social media.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
During grocery store tours, visual teaching aids are key, especially when you are in a retail setting full of noise and distractions. Examples of visuals include, showing a wheat stock from a farmer’s field and then displaying the anatomy of a whole grain to demonstrate where the different nutrients come from. Another personal favorite is the image of the different cuts of beef to showcase leaner parts of the animal. Empty food packages, sugary beverages such as pop and juice, kitchen tools to teach cooking shortcuts, sugar cubes with the number four written on them, and a healthy plate model, are all things you would find floating around in my shopping cart. I joke that one day I will make a necklace out of the healthy plate model because it follows me everywhere at work!
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
Leading Field Trip Factory “Nutrition in our Aisles” tours, both in French and English, has been very rewarding for me. I envision the grocery store as a classroom. From grade school to high school students, I love teaching them about nutrition in a fun and interactive way. The rewards include handmade thank you cards, posters and storybooks that I receive in the mail highlighting their new knowledge.
One of my stores, Malden Road ZEHRS in Lasalle, is ranked #1 across Canada for leading the most combinations of Field Trip Factory tours and cooking classes in 2016. My goal is to plant the seed of “healthy eating” in school aged children, in hopes that eventually all schools will come on a field trip to the grocery store and learn that the word diet, actually means a way of life.
More about Chantal Brazeau, BEPS, RD
In 2007, Chantal graduated from Laurentian University after completing a degree in Sports and Physical Education. Chantal moved from her hometown, Ottawa Ontario, to British Columbia for one year and realized that nutrition was her calling. She then enrolled in the Nutrition Sciences program at the University of Ottawa to pursue a career in community nutrition.
After dedicating eight years to studying at the university level, Chantal can finally say that she has reached her goal of working as an In-Store Registered Dietitian. You can learn more about Chantel in social channels at @frenchieRD, https://www.zehrs.ca/dietitians, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwie5Z73q8A.