Retail Dietitian Close Up: Leah McGrath, Ingles Markets
Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly
Leah McGrath has been a registered dietitian since 1996. Her “other life” included time spent teaching English to business executives in Spain, managing and event planning for restaurants, as well and working as a head hunter. She has a B.S. in Human Nutrition from the University of Maryland and attended the US Army Internship. While in the Army, Leah served as the Chief of Clinical Dietetics at Fort Jackson Army Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina. After fulfilling her active duty military commitment, she worked in Public Health a WIC and Nutrition Director in the Low Country Health District (Beaufort, South Carolina). And since 2000, Leah has been the Corporate Dietitian for Ingles Markets, based in Black Mountain, near Asheville, North Carolina.
Tell us a little bit about your retailer.
Ingles Markets has 204 stores in 6 states in the Southeat – NC, SC, TN, GA, VA and Alabama.
What’s the story on your experience in retail and your position with Ingles Markets?
I was hired almost 13 years ago and at that time had been a dietitian for about 4 years. I answered an advertisement on nutritionjobs.com and eventually interviewed with most of the Vice Presidents to get the job. I report to the Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Since my title is “Corporate Dietitian,” I do things on a larger scale here, and here are some examples:
-Host a weekly radio show that can be heard on iheartradio.com (WWNC 570am)
-Create and record in-store radio nutrition and food tips
-Appear monthly on TV
-Write for various publications (WNC Parent, Mountain Express)
-Handle social media (Facebook and Twitter accounts)
-Work with Ingles Markets’ locally grown program
-Coordinate two large annual Gluten Free Expos in Asheville, North Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina
-Answer consumer questions on food and nutrition
-Conduct presentations for various groups
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Balancing personal and professional life.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
More about the supermarket industry and marketing. I’ve had a lot of OJT (on the job training, i.e. I’ve learned on my own)
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
Can’t think of anything! The Ingle family, the President of Ingles Markets, and my boss are usually very supportive.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
Willingness to try new things – especially social media.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I’m not afraid to ask questions, talk to people, read publications. I really value talking to fellow supermarket RDs about their experiences.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
Taste of Local – I enjoy letting customers know about our connection with local farmers so they can feel good about buying local at a supermarket and not just at farmers markets/tailgate markets.