RD Close Up: Matthew Whipple, RD, LDN, ShopRite of Whitman Plaza
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
My passion to empower people with the tools and knowledge to lead healthy lives has driven me to consistently pursue opportunities in the field of prevention. With my background as a classically-trained chef, I enjoy being able to walk clients through the steps of accessing and preparing healthy foods and meals. I am lucky to be a part of ShopRite’s established Retail Dietitian program that is celebrating its 10th year of success. I am able to access a wealth of resources and peer connections to provide my customers with best practices and the most innovative product and health information.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
It can sometimes be challenging to find your place among the many fast-moving parts in the retail grocery industry. Not only do you have to keep up with the latest evidence-based research and findings, but you must also stay on top of emerging consumer trends and marketing and innovation by the food manufacturers.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
One thing that I have learned in my experience is the importance of building engagement with and adequate training of the store associates so that they can also serve as wellness ambassadors and engage with customers about featured campaigns, programs and events and confidently discuss the benefits of nutrition-focused products.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward as a retail RD?
My culinary experience and training helps with recipe development and cooking demos and allows me to have a high-profile presence in the store and in front of customers.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
I have had such positive response from the participants of the Eat Well, Be Happy adult weight management series. It is a joy to work with a group of individuals that are actively engaged and are at the point where they are highly motivated and are taking action to ensure that they continue to build a healthy future and make empowering choices to live well every day!
About Matthew: Matthew was raised in the heart of Cajun-Creole country in South Louisiana. Growing up watching the Master Chefs on PBS, he knew he wanted to not only pursue a career in culinary arts, but to bring his style, skills and experiences to a mass audience. After completing a B.S. in Dietetics and an A.S. in Culinary Arts, Matthew spent 5 months working in a kitchen at a non-profit in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. After completing his dietetic internship, he worked as a Head Chef at a YMCA Farm Camp in the Catskills, NY. He then spent a season working on an organic farm and creating nutritious recipes and demos for a 300+ member CSA in Media, PA. His next move was to tackle healthy school lunch reform with the Vetri Eatiquette program in Philadelphia. Most recently, he worked as a Chef Educator for SNAP benefits recipients at Greensgrow Farms in Philadelphia. Matthew's ultimate goal is to create a cooking show for kids that features segments for nutrition ed., cooking demos, and of course, dance segments!