RD Close-up: Nolan Deng, B.Sc, RD Loblaw In-store Dietitian
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at Loblaws.
I am an In-Store Dietitian! We do a whole mix of things to support our stores, customers, and community with nutrition support. This includes the classic individual nutrition consultations, a more hands-on ‘Shop with Our Dietitian’ service, corporate wellness programs, food demonstrations, and Dietitian-led store tours. We’ve also recently launched some exciting group services, such as a healthy weight program and a group spin on ‘Shop with our Dietitian.’ We’re always available as a resource for customers and colleagues to answer their food and nutrition related questions. One of my favorite parts of the role is getting involved in the community. Whether at a school, community centre, or with a neighborhood program, it’s always a treat to share the great services we offer to the community.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
It it was during my community rotations where I found my perfect fit. I discovered how much I loved running classes and workshops, and all the discussion about food and nutrition that came with it.
The Loblaw in-store dietitian program provided me with the opportunity to do just that! I started volunteering with the dietitian at the Loblaws stores in Markham and Richmond Hill, which gave me my first real taste of the retail dietitian role. Soon enough I was covering a maternity leave for Zehrs stores in Alliston and Bradford, just north of the greater Toronto area. That experience gave me valuable perspective on different communities and demographics, as I have lived in urban cores all my life. That familiarity came in handy as I eventually moved on to stores in Vancouver, where I am now.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
A big challenge has been adapting my schedule to meet the needs of the customers. I serve multiple stores in the Vancouver area and offer availability on evenings and weekends to suit the needs of my customers, so no week ever looks the same! Planning a schedule out often feels like a puzzle. We want to interact with as many customers as we can, account for last minute requests and bookings, while simultaneously making our presence as organized and routine as possible. It makes you view the structure of a month in a very different way from a school or ’nine-to-five’ setting. This plays to one of the significant advantages of our program; many hospitals and clinics don’t operate during these times, despite them being the most convenient for customers. Funnily enough, this big challenge is often a nice, little bonus. The flexible scheduling comes in handy as you get to accommodate your life too.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
Being exposed primarily to hospital roles, getting accustomed to the mindset of a business and retail setting definitely required some adjustment. In this environment, the focus, philosophies, and important numbers are all a bit different. This changes how you frame your conversations with each group, becoming very apparent as you shift between customers, store managers, dietitian managers, store pharmacists, community contacts, and other health professionals. You try your best to speak in their language to ensure your messages are both appealing and effective. Preparation for this change in lingo and approach was, understandably, something that did not get as much attention throughout my dietetics schooling.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
As cliché as it sounds, it’s definitely been my Loblaw dietitian colleagues! From the day I started they’ve been so incredibly helpful and encouraging. Though we spend most days independently in our respective stores, everyone is still just a phone call or email away. If anyone has any questions, needs a hand, or wants some inspiration, everyone is always willing to help. That support and knowing someone always has my back gives me that extra level of confidence to perform day to day!
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I feel like it boils down to an eagerness and willingness to learn. If I can approach everything openly, it allows every situation to become a learning experience. One of my favourite aspects of this role is how much it has pushed me to develop and hone different soft skills. With our role being so varied and multifaceted, it’s rare to find any skill or knowledge that can’t contribute to success.
We’re also encouraged to expand our skill sets if we have interest in other areas of the retail industry. Honestly, that’s not really something I had on my radar prior to my time with Loblaw. However, after the exposure I’ve received in this setting, I’ve become quite interested in exploring opportunities in the industry. Areas such as product development, technology, and marketing, all seem like exciting avenues to pursue down the line.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
I’m a big fan of the support Loblaw provides for children nutrition education. Whether it’s through our ‘Raise A Food Lover’ initiative, field trips for classes, or supporting local schools with their health and nutrition days, the dietitian team always gets to play a big part. I think we can all agree on the importance of teaching our youth about good food choices and crucial cooking skills. It’s truly a privilege to play this role in educating the future!
Bio: Nolan Deng graduated from McGill University (Montreal, Canada) with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Sciences and Dietetics. Nolan now works as an In-store Dietitian covering three stores in his hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia. You can find him at Loblaws City Market Arbutus, Miller’s Your Independent Grocer, or at Davie Street Your Independent Grocer. If you’re interested in reaching out, don’t hesitate to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.