RD Close Up: Cassandra Umile, RD, LDN, The Kenny Family ShopRites of Delaware
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
What's the story behind your experience in retail?
To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how I would like being a retail dietitian, but knowing ShopRite is a family-owned business and part of Wakefern, I thought it would be more personal and community driven than other retailers, and also allow me to positively impact wellness for a large number of people, so I took a chance. I wondered if I would just be doing consultations and in-store demos because that’s where my position started, but that wasn’t my path – it was a launching point. I immediately noticed dozens of opportunities to expand the program into much more, and my team was not only supportive but also enthusiastic about growing the position to something much bigger. I currently act as a nutrition resource for six stores, providing product recommendations and free in-store nutrition services. I also work closely with community organizations and government agencies to encourage healthy behaviors. I partner with the University of Delaware and the University of Pennsylvania on nutrition-related research projects within our stores. On the corporate end, I’m spearheading my stores’ menu-labeling initiative, and have begun to teaching food safety classes to our associates. I’m also developing associate wellness programs.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Building my own niche. ShopRite has a great Retail Dietitian team, but when I began, I struggled with how I could make our stores’ program my own. I’ve since been able to work closely with the community to narrow in on what people want and what they really need so I can tailor an authentic program that not only delivers maximum results, but delivers them in my own style. Infusing my personal goals and passions into our programs tells our customers the program is genuine.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
When I started out I had no idea how much went into running a grocery store. It is so much more than just putting product on a shelf. Our employees have so much knowledge of their particular department or field. It amazes me all the hard work that goes into getting products out to consumers.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
Being open to new experiences. I’m lucky enough to work with a great boss who values my expertise. Anytime she believes I can add a new angle or opinion, she includes me in the discussion. This has helped me not only understand the business side of retail, but allows me to grow outside the traditional responsibilities of a retail dietitian. Being part of Wakefern is a tremendous advantage because I’m able to regularly connect with our team of more than 130 Retail Dietitians across six states. I look forward to exploring, experimenting and discovering new ways dietitians can benefit retail organizations and the communities they serve.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I’m a very curious person and like to arm myself with as much knowledge as I can. I try to attend as many meetings as I can to learn about all aspects of the business. I jump at every chance I have to learn about how another department operates. Similarly, if new training is available, I also try to participate. I attend national trade shows, workshops and conventions several times each year to keep up with what’s new and hot. I frequently engage local university students and professors to stay informed of their programs and goals. Lastly, I ask a million questions to make sure I fully understand a concept. It all helps me to better understand how all the parts of our organization work together.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives of which you are most proud.
I recently secured a grant called the Food Insecurity and Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant from the USDA to provide fresh fruit and vegetable vouchers to SNAP beneficiaries. For every $5 a SNAP beneficiary spends, they will receive a $2 fresh fruit and vegetable voucher. The grant also funds in-store nutrition education in the form of store tours and weekly produce picks. We will partner with Delaware farmers to highlight as much of our delicious Delaware produce as possible. It’s a great opportunity for us to increase fresh produce consumption among people who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Ultimately, we look to continue to expand this program to all six of our stores.
About Cassandra: Cassandra Umile, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian working for Kenny Family ShopRites of Delaware. She has a B.S. in Biology from Lehigh University where she also ran Division 1 track and field. After graduation, she went on to work as a production analyst at a biotech company. Realizing that this was not the career path for her,she completed a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics at West Chester University and her dietetic internship at Cedar Crest College.