Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly
Peggy Balboa is a registered dietitian and professionally trained in culinary arts. As a supermarket dietitian for Mariano’s Fresh Market, Peggy is able to combine her love of cooking foods from their freshest forms with her passion to educate consumers about healthy eating. As part of Mariano’s wellness initiative, Peggy provides nutrition education to corporate wellness organizations, schools, and customers within the store both in person and through social media.
Peggy received her bachelor’s degree in nutrition science from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2010. During her time at UIC, Peggy volunteered within the local community by providing nutrition education for Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry and developed grocery shopping and transportation guides for Heartland Alliance, supporting incoming refugee populations. She is a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children. Peggy continues to practice as a clinical dietitian at Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
1. Tell us a little about your retailer.
Roundy’s operates 161 stores under five banners in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, including Mariano’s – Chicagoland’s grocery destination of choice. Currently, there are 11 Mariano’s locations, with 30 stores expected over the next few years.
2. Tell us about your experience in retail and your current position.
I began my career in 2010 after receiving my RD. While looking for a position, I answered a call from Mariano’s and blurted out, “I can’t wait until your store opens!” I was asked if I had interest working there and the rest is history.
I report into and impact many audiences, from Mariano’s customers and store directors, to CEO Bob Mariano. Mariano’s dietitians are responsible for promoting healthy eating tips and lifestyles. I connect with customers on Twitter (@PegsFreshTakes) and I share “how-to” tips for meal planning, shopping and preparation. I also offer in-store nutrition help!
3. What is your biggest challenge working in the retail industry?
For me, being a retail dietitian is an ideal situation. I enjoy working one on one with people and with groups. Sometimes in our weakness we find our strength, and that’s always how I look at challenges. As an example, in the past I was hesitant working with kids and now I find that to be most rewarding.
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known before starting as a retail dietitian?
I wish I had taken more marketing and communications classes. As a retail dietitian, marketing yourself and your programs is important. Insights from other retail dietitians are very valuable.
5. Has there been anything specific that has held you back? If yes, tell us about this and how you dealt with it.
At first, I was uneasy with public speaking. I’ve continued to practice and improve by presenting to local organizations and students. It’s an important skill to have.
6. Similarly, has anything specific helped you move forward? If yes, please explain.
Retail dietitians from different markets have been an outstanding support and sounding board. Industry organizations like Oldway’s, TOPCO, FNCE and the DPG Food and Culinary Professionals provide platforms to share ideas with other dietitians. I’m also thankful to Mariano’s, which provides me many opportunities and resources to reach customers.
7. What have you done to prepare yourself for success in the retail industry?
My career path began in school, where I took on a few volunteer roles with various populations to gain an understanding of the nutritional challenges these groups faced.
8. Tell us about one of your programs that you are most proud of and why.
I am most proud of a middle school “Taste Test Challenge” and “Mariano’s Healthy Cooking,” an after-school program for elementary students. The first program allowed 250 middle school students to take a 30-minute class on nutrition and tasting techniques astronauts used before heading into space. The second program taught 180 elementary school students how to prepare healthy foods, including uncommon fruits and vegetables.