RDBA Member Spotlight: Francis Lenna Cooper Memorial Lecture Award Recipient

RDBA Member Spotlight: Francis Lenna Cooper Memorial Lecture Award Recipient

December 10, 2014

Karen Buch, RDN, LDN
Interim Editor, RDBA Weekly

Many of our RDBA members know the name Lenna Francis Cooper. Lenna co-founded the American Dietetic Association in 1917—now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy), was the first president of the Michigan Dietetic Association, was the first U. S. Army dietitian, served on the staff of the U.S. Surgeon General and created the department of dietetics at the National Institutes of Health. As a pioneer of the nutrition profession, Lenna’s legacy is honored annually through an award which bears her name.

The 52
nd Lenna Francis Cooper Memorial Lecture award recipient is retail dietitian pioneer and RDBA member, Jane Welsh Andrews, MS, RD. In Jane’s lecture, entitled “Inside Out: How Retail RDNs Transform Food Culture” and delivered at the 2014 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Atlanta, she highlights retail dietitians as knowledge experts and communicators who inspire, influence and multiply messages through staff and various media. Jane draws from her 26 years of experience working for Wegmans, a Rochester, New York-based food & pharmacy retailer operating 85 stores in six states.

As Nutrition and Product Labeling Manager at Wegmans, Jane leads a team of 10 RDNs that are part of the Consumer Affairs Department comprised of 100 staff members including Consumer Services, Media Relations, Community Relations, Quality Assurance, Food Safety and Sustainability. Together, they provide value by maintaining consumer trust, building loyalty and helping people to live healthier, better lives. 

In 1988, Jane toyed with having her own business. Instead, she decided she wanted to work with and through others. What began as contract-work led to a half-time and eventually a full-time position with Wegmans. At the time, there were only a handful of registered dietitians working in supermarkets. It was Jane’s entrepreneurial drive, ability to listen and her flexibility that really stood out. Over the years, Jane and her team went on to develop successful internal and external partnerships with store teams, culinary and chef teams, worksite wellness teams, merchandising and private label teams, pharmacy teams, community partners and more. Their unique programs are built on integrity and harness nutritionist influence in ways that build solid trust and credibility with their customers.

Mary Ellen Burris, Senior Vice President for Consumer Affairs, notes, “In a fast paced world like today, more than ever, we need nutritionists who are not confined within a box but can see what’s going on around them, can see the trends even before they happen, and can develop programs and projects that are going to meet those needs for Wegmans into the future.”  Jane and her team of retail RDNs certainly deliver.

Jane’s lecture and subsequent article, to be published in 2015 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (JAND), offer personal insights and reflections on the food business to help RDNs answer the question, “Could retail nutrition be the career choice for you?” She describes three spheres of retail nutrition including public health, products and clinical and expands on the many ways that retail RDNs can make a positive impact on consumer behavior both individually and through “the multiplier effect”.  Jane encourages dietitians contemplating a role in retail to ask themselves the following:

  • Fascinated by research on food, nutrition & consumer trends?
  • Driven to inspire people to better health?
  • Love to talk about food all day long? 
  • Willing to flex your role as needed?
  • Want to work with and through others?
  • Perform especially well on cross-functional teams?
  • Have high ethical standards?
  • Able to bridge science, culture and personal tastes?
  • Need a fast-paced environment where change is constant?

If you said “Yes”, then retail may be right for you.

I am thrilled to write this article as a tribute to my personal retail dietitian mentor and friend, Jane Andrews.  I encourage our RDBA Weekly readers to watch for her detailed JAND article later in 2015.