By Amanda Rubizhevsky MPH, NC
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
Though I had done the odd grocery tour in the past in my career and I have a secret, obsessive love of grocery shopping, I had no formal experience in retail dietetics prior to my position with Kroger and The Little Clinic in Columbus, Ohio. The Little Clinic is a retail medical clinic inside select Kroger stores. I had experience in the nutrition program side of dietetics and private practice and thus had a bit more knowledge of business and marketing, which had lended well to the position. Also, like many retail RDNs, I’m definitely a foodie dietitian and love learning about new food products, so applying clinical dietetics in the hands-on food setting of a grocery store is truly my passion. I've now been with Kroger and The Little Clinic for over three years. During the first 2 years I was the only dietitian for our marketing area so I did more behind-the-scenes work. This year we expanded under the umbrella of The Little Clinic inside Kroger so now there are four RDNs across the city of Columbus, Ohio. We are also now customer-facing rather than being behind-the-scenes. So, even in three years the role has changed and grown significantly.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
My biggest challenge is that there are so many opportunities for helping customers that I want to do them all but I realize that I need to stay focused on our key objectives and activities.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I feel like I luckily knew this, but a lot of people think retail dietetics is very glamorous and it's important for them to know that it's not always so. There can be a lot of down and dirty that you do day-to-day in the kitchen and in the back rooms prepping for activities. You need sturdy pants, comfortable shoes and sweat resistant colors! I also wish I would've had a crash course in grocery store lingo and operations.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
Compared to most dietitian educations, I had a good background in business and marketing skills because of my Master’s in Dietetics Administration. It wasn’t my passion to learn the information and I mentally fought it along the way, thinking “I’ll never use this information.” But low and behold, I use it every day and have a great appreciation for business skills now. After all, you can’t get people to change their food habits unless you can successfully market to them the reasons why they should change and the foods they should eat!
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
Going to retail dietitian conferences, as fun as they are, are essential to meeting other dietitians, brainstorming ideas, learning the retail ropes, and feeling a network of support in this sometimes very independent role. I’ve also made a huge effort to always attempt to attend meetings with and get in front of other merchandising groups and departments of the grocery store. This is absolutely essential for visibility and learning.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
I got the chance to train over 120 Kroger pharmacists to deliver general grocery tours, using the Cooking Matters at the Store program and other very basic, MyPlate-style lessons. Through their tours, they have touched thousands of lives. This expands our health reach tremendously when we can’t have a dietitian in every store, and uses a reputable health professional that can deliver some basic nutrition information right when it’s needed - when talking to customers about their medications. We need everyone talking about nutrition, to get our messages across to make a bigger impact both for the health of our customers and for uplifting the dietitian community.