RD Close-Up: Judy Chodirker, MHSc, RD, Loblaws Dietitian
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at Loblaw’s.
As an In-Store Dietitian at Loblaws, I’m responsible for promoting and providing nutrition and health education to customers at two Loblaws stores (in Toronto and Richmond Hill, Canada). This takes place through individual personalized counseling, Shop With the Dietitian tours, group workshops and events, children’s programs, on-the-floor customer interactions and food/nutrition education demos (pre-COVID). Since COVID hit, many of our activities are now taking place virtually as well. I’m also responsible for promoting my services in the store and community, partnering with community groups, healthcare providers and businesses.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at Loblaw’s?
I have a wide variety of experiences, both in and out of dietetics, in three different countries. I have worked in health-related project management and healthcare provider marketing as well as clinical and public health nutrition. When I’m working in nutrition, I miss business, and when I’m working in business, I miss nutrition! As a result, working as a retail dietitian was a great opportunity to combine my interests in nutrition, health and business. Every day is different, and I’ve enjoyed it for the past eight years!
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Proving our worth as In-Store Dietitians at the store and upper management levels. I’m happy to say with the development of our program over the years, we have been validated more and more as a result of our effect on increasing customer loyalty and healthier choice basket size, increasing sales for our services, and supporting other teams in the business. New stores across the company are now including a designated dietitian office which is a huge win for our program.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career in retail?
The dietitian program at Loblaw has changed greatly, month-to-month and year-to-year. It’s really important to be flexible and open-minded. It took time to recognize that retail in general and the role of the In-Store Dietitian specifically are constantly changing and to learn to be able to be adaptable and “roll with the punches.”
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
It’s always a challenge dealing with nutrition misinformation among customers and keeping up with all the food and health trends. Over time, I’ve learned how to use motivational interviewing skills to be able to provide education about misinformed beliefs in an appropriate, non-judgmental way. I’ve also learned that there are situations where it would be hurtful and unnecessary to challenge clients’ beliefs.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that help you moved forward in your role?
My colleagues and the team of dietitians at Loblaw are amazing! As we all work in different locations and have different experience and skills, the support we provide to each other is invaluable. Despite not actually “working together” and living in various locations across the country, we connect by chat, phone and email. Our annual meeting is a great opportunity to meet face to face. The support is immeasurable both personally and professionally.
Is there a program or initiative of which you are most proud?
I think I’m most proud of the growth in my dietitian services sales over the past few years. When I started working as an In-Store Dietitian, all our services were free-of-charge, and over the past few years, most of our services have changed to fee for service. I have built community and healthcare professional partnerships and have been successful in converting clients from free services to paid services.
About Judy: Judy is a graduate of the Master of Health Sciences (Community Nutrition) program at the University of Toronto. She received her Bachelor degree in Food and Nutrition from Ryerson University and then completed a dietetic internship at North York General Hospital. She came to Loblaw Companies Ltd. seven years ago with years of experience in clinical and community nutrition. Her areas of expertise include healthy eating through the lifecycle, chronic disease prevention, eating disorders, plant-based eating and preventative health. She has a non-judgmental, practical and realistic approach to making lifestyle changes whether it’s through guidance in understanding your medical condition, planning and preparing meals or grocery shopping. She uses an intuitive eating, non-diet approach to help clients improve their relationships with food, feel energized and reach their health and wellness goals.