RD Close-up: Katie Gallagher, MS, RDN, LDN, Registered Dietitian, ShopRite of Daleville
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at ShopRite.
I am the first retail dietitian at the ShopRite of Daleville. In this role, I answer customer questions regarding their nutritional needs, educate shoppers about reading labels and assist them in making healthy food choices. I am also responsible for health and wellness education and outreach to ShopRite associates, customers and community partners through a variety of programs, such as supermarket tours, workshops, one-on-one consultations, and year-round culinary demos. This year, my role expanded to include the oversight of menu labeling compliance with FDA regulations.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
Before I started at ShopRite, my background was in community and clinical nutrition. When the position at ShopRite became available, I jumped at the opportunity because it offered the perfect balance between community nutrition and nutrition counseling. To me, the grocery store is the ideal place for a dietitian because it is where people make the majority of their food decisions. Having a voice in the grocery store allows me not only to help customers make on-the-spot healthy choices, but also gives me a platform to teach essential life skills to encourage positive change including, at-home menu planning, food label reading, and basic cooking techniques.
As I continue to learn more about the business side and cultivate relationships with suppliers, I find that food companies are paying more attention to what registered dietitians have to say. This means our seat at the table is becoming increasingly more important as the food industry shifts its focus in the direction of health and wellness.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Getting started as a retail dietitian was a challenge in and of itself since the program was not only new to me, but also brand new to our store. I found myself trying to navigate an unfamiliar setting while also trying to drive awareness for the program among our associates, customers and community partners. During those early days, I spent more time explaining what my role as the retail dietitian was rather than actually giving out nutrition advice.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I don’t have a formal background in business, but I’ve learned that marketing plays a vital role to the success of the dietitian program. There are so many competing voices in a retail setting that if your message doesn’t stand out or appeal to customers, it’s not going to have a big impact.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
Every so often I have a class, sampling event or counseling session that falls flat or doesn’t resonate with my customers. Once I get over that initial feeling of defeat, I try figure out why there was a disconnect so I can plan better for future events or counseling sessions. This reflection phase has not only made me a more effective practitioner but has also helped me to focus on where I need to make changes to enhance our customers’ overall experience with ShopRite’s dietitian program.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
During my initial training, I spent time in each department of the supermarket to help broaden my understanding of the operation as a whole. This was incredibly helpful and gave me a chance to get to know our employees. They are very knowledgeable about our customers and store trends, so I often refer to them when planning in-store programs and events.
I stay up-to-date on nutrition news and supermarket trends through department meetings, trade shows, webinars, continuing education opportunities and e-newsletters from a variety of sources. On a weekly basis, I review the circular and walk the aisles to see what’s on sale or new to our store. I really enjoy the culinary aspect of nutrition, so when I have free time, I also test out recipes or work with unfamiliar ingredients so that I can continue to be a reliable food resource for our customers.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
This past fall, I organized a pumpkin painting contest among our associates. There were 18 pumpkin entries representing the different departments of the store that we placed along our store entranceway. To determine a winner, our customers “voted” for their favorite pumpkins all month long using non-perishable goods. We collected over 2,000 goods, which were donated to our local food pantry in time for the holiday season. I’m so proud of this contest not only because of how much we were able to collectively donate to those in need, but also because it boosted morale in our store and community – plus it helped drive canned goods and pumpkin sales!
About Katie: Katie received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Italian Studies and History from Fordham University. She completed a Dietetic Internship and earned her MS degree in Nutrition at Marywood University. Katie previously worked as a clinical dietitian for a skilled nursing care facility in Northeast PA.