Retail Dietitian Close Up: Alicia Jerome, United Texas
Alicia Jerome, MS, RD, LD has been the dietitian for the DFW area Market Streets since 2008. She works with and for store guests to provide nutrition education, nutrition analysis of corporate recipes and works with local community health organizations. Her mission is to make nutrition as simple as she can for the store guests. Through store tours, community programs, maintaining the NuVal and health attribute tag program and more, she is realizing more and more every day, that this is her dream job.
Alicia is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and was President of the Dallas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for 2011-2012. In 2009, she was honored to receive the Registered Young Dietitian of the Year Award (RYDY).
When she is not working she enjoys baking vegan treats, working out, being outdoors with her wonderful husband and chocolate lab (Whiskey Jack) and traveling to new places. Alicia has a Master’s Degree in Exercise and Sports Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science from Hardin Simmons University.
Tell us a little bit about United.
United’s roots go back to 1916, when H.D. Snell opened his first United in Oklahoma. Today, his legacy has grown to include 51 stores in 30 Texas cities, with more than 10,000 team members committed to serving our Guests and their communities. We operate under three banners and pride ourselves on living out our mission statement: ultimate service, superior performance and positive impact.
What’s the story on your experience in retail and your position with United.
During my internship I really began to develop a passion for preventative nutrition. After graduate school I worked as a RD at a health resort in New England for 2 years. Unfortunately this Texas girl was too cold and too far from her family. I told all my friends “Find me any job in Texas. Just get me home.” A friend heard about United hiring a new RD in the Dallas area. I had never worked in retail but applied thinking “I’ll take the job and find something else later.” Well that was almost 6 years ago and I always tell people my dream job found me.
I work with an amazing team of 3 dietitians. We all report into our Director of Health and Wellness, also an RD, and we fall under marketing. Our headquarters is in Lubbock, but I am in Dallas.
Our team shares many of the health and wellness responsibilities corporately. I’ve never had a typical day but it is not uncommon to find me working on our shelf tag nutrition programs; Dietitian’s Top Pick program; analyzing recipes with our chef; leading stores tours, group presentations, or working on our blog.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
The biggest challenge has been distance. While we have four dietitians, our stores are spread out across Texas. There are so many needs but our arms only reach so far.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I wish I would have known more about the inner workings of the retail industry.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back? If yes, tell us about this and how you dealt with it.
Honestly, I held myself back. I worried too much that I would be told “no” or that management would think I was silly. I worked really hard to surround myself with influential people in the company, pick their brains and build my confidence. One of my greatest lessons learned is always present three ideas that way they can say no to two and say yes to one. All you need is one yes.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward? If yes, tell us about this.
Become a sponge and work in the trenches. I asked every possible question I could. I would spend time with anyone who would give me a second of their time. During the holidays we are given the option to help out in stores. Every year I volunteer and I stock dairy, package bakery products, help with catering orders or anything that needs extra help. When team members see that you care about them, then suddenly they care about your programs. Getting my head out of nutrition for a moment and into their world created more allies for our cause than anything I’ve done yet.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
The growing attention to retail dietitians has been so helpful. The different conferences, share groups, field trips, listservs, and groups have sharpened me in so many ways.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
I have loved working on our Dietitian’s Top Pick program. One of my favorite moments was when one of the bread vendors asked if we could give him notice when one of his items would be selected as a Dietitian’s Top Pick. He said that when his bread is tagged he knows he’ll need to stock more of it. What a win-win! That is what being a retail dietitian is all about.