RD Close-up: Danielle Buonforte, RD, Registered Dietitian at ShopRite of Lincoln Park
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at ShopRite.
As the Retail Dietitian at ShopRite of Lincoln Park, I am the lead nutrition expert in the store and within the local community. I offer individual nutrition counseling based on customer needs, which includes, but is not limited to, diabetes education, combating hypertension, and weight loss. I provide sample menu ideas and recipe makeovers for customers, clients and associates. I have the privilege of working with a variety of age groups, which ranges from toddlers to teenagers, adults to the elderly. Through ShopRite’s free dietitian services, both in-house and for outreach, I am able to work with many individuals, groups, education systems, institutions, and community centers. I perform educational store tours, cooking demonstrations, food tastings, lectures, wellness programs, as well as participate in community events, fundraisers, and health fairs.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
When I was going through the rotations in my dietetic internship, I had the privilege of being placed in a ShopRite store. I was excited about ShopRite’s free dietitian services, both in-house and for outreach, and witnessed the retail dietitian’s ability to reach many individuals, groups, education systems, institutions, and community centers. Immediately, I was interested in focusing my efforts into working as a Retail Dietitian. Community outreach and promoting ShopRite’s healthy name and brand products are some of my favorite parts about my job.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Since I started in my position, I’ve always felt the most important aspect of my job, and, oftentimes, the biggest challenge, is to know our customers. I am constantly working to meet customer needs, learning how to think on my feet, answer customer questions coherently, and keep up to date with research and literature in the field to fully understand the ever-changing nutrition science and all of the “fad” diets our customers take interest in. Time is also a big challenge in a retail setting. There are so many hats I wear as a Retail Dietitian that I often have to remind myself that I am one person trying to promote healthier lifestyle choices to everyone around me. My days are often fast-paced, so learning to slow down, focus, and maximize my time is often a challenge.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I came into the retail setting knowing very little about large businesses and how they operate, so learning how to incorporate and drive sales in my position was one aspect of the job that I had to learn rather quickly. The business side of my position, driving the numbers, showcasing food products to promote sales—all of these aspects had to be learned immediately.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
Looking back to where my confidence level was when I started my position to where I am today, I can say that I have grown in my position and have become much more self-confident. I had to work to gain that confidence by continuously challenging myself in incorporating more programs, events, and taking risks. I certainly would not have had the confidence to do all that I’m doing today than when I first started in my position.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
I believe that my willingness to be involved in as many events possible, as well as trying new programming in-store and in the community, has made me greatly aware of what our customer’s and specific population’s needs are. This has helped me tremendously to move toward my goal of being the trusted nutrition expert in the store.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
Continuous research, asking questions, and taking the time that I need to position myself to be the best that I can be to help customers, employees, and the community. I’ve completed courses toward the Certificate of Training in Supermarket Business and Industry Skills to Thrive in Retail Dietetics. I also attended the 2017 Progressive Grocer Retail Dietitian Symposium where I learned a lot about the retail setting. I also make it a point to annually partake in at least one large continuing education conference in order to network and keep up with current trends and nutrition topics.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud.
I became a Retail RD three and a half years ago, and during this time, I have actively focused on encouraging children to consume more fruits and vegetables. I started hosting children's events in our grocery store, and I host community events on a weekly basis at local schools, day care centers, public libraries, and in community centers with scout troops and various other youth organizations. Each year, my events have grown, and as a result, I've found a growing number of children and their families that visit our store to be introducing, adding, and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into their meal routines. As these in-store and community event offerings began to increase, I noticed an immediate impact and positive response from our customers and community members. Parents are continually excited to see the produce their children are trying while attending my programs. I love receiving photos, emails, and calls from parents and families that show how their children use the information they learned in my classes, and to hear about how enthusiastic they are to try new products, fruit and vegetable "experiments," or produce combinations--right in their very own kitchens! At each children’s event, I ask every child to try at least one fruit or vegetable. Seeing other children tasting and trying definitely encourages everyone to join in, and kid-friendly themed food creations always work as a great motivator to incorporate all of the provided ingredients.
Bio: Danielle Buonforte, RD received a Bachelor of Science from Montclair State University where she majored in Dietetics. She completed her Dietetic Internship at The College of Saint Elizabeth and shortly after completing her internship, became the Retail Dietitian at ShopRite of Lincoln Park. Danielle has been with ShopRite for over three years and has had a positive impact on not only the customers and associates in the store, but on the community as a whole. Danielle has helped hundreds of customers improve overall wellness in their life, and she has quickly become known as the community’s nutrition resource.