RD Close-Up: Joni Rampolla, RDN, CSOWM, LDN, Regional Nutritionist at The GIANT Company
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at The GIANT Company.
I was hired as an In-Store Nutritionist covering one store and one community for three years. My role transformed and now, I am one of the Regional Nutritionist with The GIANT Company who works with 30+ GIANT and MARTIN’s stores and the communities surrounding our stores to help shoppers make healthier choices for their families. My region includes south central PA, MD, VA, and WV. In addition, I support our associates on their health journey and work with our corporate teams to plan and execute healthier systems for our customers.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at Giant?
I had worked in healthcare, for a food manufacturer, and as a corporate dietitian for a business. An acquaintance recommended me for the retail position and knowing me, she knew I would enjoy it which I do! I did not have any retail exposure when I joined the team in 2016.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
In the beginning, the biggest challenge was keeping up with the trends and lingo. Retail has its own language and it takes a while to adjust to understand what everyone is talking about. There are so many abbreviations used. Also, when you are in the store and wearing a company badge, customers know you work there so ask you questions. You must know what aisle breadcrumbs reside, why we no longer sell their favorite product, or answer a question about a recipe in our company magazine. Customers that do ask specific nutrition questions also ask about a wide range of topics. You must always be on your toes and know where to find the answers if you do not know them immediately. Taking responsibility to get customer needs met is the key!
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting in retail?
One thing I wish I had known is how to determine the dietitians return on investment (ROI) in the retail business world. Since we do not directly generate income for the brand, how do we prove our value? A background in business, marketing or media experience is helpful prior to starting a retail role. I personally wish I had a broader understanding of agriculture and farming practices to help educate our customers that ask so many sustainability questions.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
Well for one, the pandemic turned my job in a totally different direction since we are no longer trying to attract customers to our stores or participate in live community events. Retail is always changing. That is a certainty, but this took change to a whole new level. My amazing team worked together to brainstorm solutions. We started teaching classes every workday via Zoom for our customers and associates. I held associate only group phone calls to educate staff. We still work with community partners but in different ways such as a social media challenge, educational videos/Facebook Live sessions or cooking demonstrations.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that help you moved forward in your role?
Building relationships is what moved me forward. I have been incredibly lucky to have a supportive store manager, district director, encouraging nutritionist team, and buyer that have helped me navigate situations, innovate my own programs, and find solutions for our customers. Building relationships with vendors has made events hugely successful with materials, coupons, recipes, and product. This reduced the financial burden on our stores and significantly boosted sales for the vendors so a win: win for all of us!
Is there a program or initiative of which you are most proud?
One of my company’s pillars is Changing Children’s Lives. I do a lot for our community’s youth and these are the programs that make me smile. There are three that I want to highlight.
- Our Mini Chef Morning program used to be an in-store live demo at least monthly where kids make a food item with a Nutritionist. It gets rave reviews from customers. I often had a huge line waiting for me to get set up. We now do this as a Zoom class with parents buying their own ingredients, and it is still successful.
- My second program that I am most proud of is a program that I created in conjunction with a local non-profit organization which we titled “NoBody Is Perfect”. We bring a 4-hour interactive program to local high schools dedicated to positive body image awareness, providing knowledge to teens on creating a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally. We have local sports teams now asking for this program for their teen athletes.
- A school-age grocery store tour program I created not only includes nutrition information but also sustainability and physical activity. They hop like a kangaroo to the meat department, then swim on over to the seafood department laughing while getting in some fun exercise!
Bio: Joni Rampolla, RDN, CSOWM, LDN is a nutrition and wellness professional who brings over 20 years of experience in weight management, and corporate wellness to her role as Regional Nutritionist at The GIANT Company. She is currently enrolled in an MBA program at Capella University. Joni inspires and empowers people to make small alterations towards healthier life choices while optimizing nutrition to help the community live happier, healthier, more productive lives. She enjoys public speaking and can be found at many events when she is not in the food store aisles, leading grocery store tours or talking about a new recipe with GIANT customers.
IG: @MartinsNutritionist, Class Schedule sign up: www.thegiantcompanynutritionists.eventbrite.com