RD Close-Up: Jillian Griffith, MSPH, RDN, LDN, In-store Nutritionist at Giant
At Giant, I am one of 11 in-store nutritionists who works to improve the wellness of our communities by teaching customers how to fill their carts with nourishing food while also positively impacting the community’s perception of Giant as a healthy retailer and community partner. I serve the Ward 8 community of Washington, DC, spreading the message of healthy eating through classes, store tours, community events, and individual counseling. As the only full-service grocery store in the Ward, we are surrounded by a huge food desert. The health and income statistics associated with the Ward are not so great, but that just means there are ample opportunities to improve the health of our customers and neighbors. Although I am a retail dietitian, I am a public health professional at heart and have enjoyed building programmatic partnerships with other health-focused organizations to improve health outcomes in the Ward 8 community.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at Giant Food?
I am brand new to the retail space – I started with Giant Food in November of 2018! After finishing graduate school in 2016, I worked for Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), a national non-profit started by former First Lady Michelle Obama. While working with PHA, I became interested in the role the private sector plays in shaping the food environment in communities across the nation, but more specifically in low income and minority communities. In 2018, Giant launched a Ward 8 initiative, including hiring a RD to manage a new Wellness Space inside of the store. The job was shared with me and it immediately peaked my interest!
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
One of the things I love the most about my job is inspiring customers to try new foods and introducing customers to new, healthier ways to prepare and enjoy the foods they love. This can be a challenge when customers are faced with financial barriers that we must navigate as we encourage them to build a balanced cart. A common misconception is “healthy eating is expensive” and therefore unattainable. I work hard every day to dispel that mindset by teaching customers how to stretch their dollar to build healthy, budget-friendly, delicious meals the entire family will enjoy.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career in retail?
I had no idea how dynamic this role would be! As a registered dietitian working in the retail space, I am one of the most accessible health professionals in this community. I am required to be an expert in a wide range of topics outside of traditional dietetics practices including nutrition myth busting and food industry trends. As a partner in the continuum of care, I’m able to help customers better understand their medical diagnosis and role food plays in their long-term health goals. The cherry on top is that I get to represent Giant in local media and support our Nutrition Made Easy! podcast!
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
When I started, my store had never had an in-store nutritionist and the concept of a Wellness Space inside of a grocery store was new to this community and to Giant Food. At first, I felt discouraged when no one showed up to my classes that I worked so hard to plan; but I realized with anything new, you must raise awareness! I spent the summer months attending lots of community events and building partnerships with local organizations to spread the word about the new wellness resources offered at the local Giant.
Is there a program or initiative of which you are most proud?
In March 2019, Giant partnered with non-profit DC Greens and Amerihealth Caritas to offer a Produce Rx program. Customers who are Medicaid beneficiaries through AmeriHealth Caritas DC and who are currently experiencing a diet-related chronic illness can receive a prescription for fruits and vegetables from their healthcare provider and fill the prescriptions at our Giant Pharmacy. The pharmacist issues a $20 coupon and connects recipients with my nutrition services (classes and individual consultations). I offer a monthly class, “Food is Medicine – Shopping and Cooking with a Produce Rx”, to help participants learn how to stretch their dollars and maximize their produce purchase. I inspire them to try new produce items now that they have additional funds to spend on fruits and veggies.
Jillian Griffith, MSPH, RDN, LDN, received her BS Degree in Public Health – Nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From there, she attended Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she received her Masters of Science in Public Health (MSPH) in Human Nutrition and completed the coordinated dietetics program. Jillian is a Registered Dietitian on the nutrition team at Giant Food where she serves the South East, Washington DC community. Jillian is a native of the Washington, DC Metropolitan area, but loves to travel, especially when the destination includes the sand and sun.