RD Close-Up: Rosae Calvo, RDN, LD, Supermarket Dietitian at Pay-Less Markets, Inc. in Guam
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at Pay-Less Markets.
A key tenet of the Pay-Less Markets mission statement is to “care for our community.” Pay-Less fulfills this principle through four “Community Care” programs--Health Smart, EduKitchen, Go Green, and Pay-Less Supermarkets Community Foundation. As the Supermarket Dietitian, I oversee the Health Smart program, which promotes healthy living through product awareness, food education, fitness activities and partnerships, and individual nutrition services. I work hand-in-hand with our EduKitchen Chef, Marketing Department, People Department, Store Managers, and Super Drug pharmacy to execute the numerous projects, campaigns, and services that fall within this spectrum.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at Pay-Less Markets?
Pay-Less is a family-owned company acquired by my grandfather and was my first employer. Throughout high school, I worked at Pay-Less during the summer as a Bagger initially, then Scanning Clerk for the accounting department. During my dietetic internship with Sodexo, I had an assignment to coordinate the Cooking Matters at the Store tour. This activity inspired Pay-Less management to explore dietetic applications in the retail setting and provided an opening to complete my Leadership Elective at Pay-Less. I was initially employed as Health Smart Coordinator, which evolved into Supermarket Dietitian once I became a registered dietitian.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Practicing dietetics in grocery retail is an innovation. While this synergy makes sense, it is not traditional or standard for grocers to employ dietitians. Novelty itself has been both the biggest challenge and the greatest appeal working in the retail industry. I personally thrive in a structured setting with defined expectations, so it has been a struggle to navigate a role that was not already established. The administrative responsibilities that come with a new program--developing vision and goals, creating systems that support rather than disrupt the existing organization, and evaluation and improvement--require as much time and effort (if not more) than implementing the program. Balancing day-to-day operations with strategic planning is the overarching challenge.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career in retail?
For retail dietitians, work is a series of projects that changes with the needs of your shoppers. Every day on the job is different as you move through different seasons and circumstances. In a typical year, your program can shift from direct nutrition promotion during the New Year, National Nutrition Month, or the Back-to-School season to more discreet messaging during Halloween or the holiday season. In addition, unique circumstances like the COVID pandemic or natural disasters may require a completely different model of activities and services. Food and lifestyle trends as well as nutrition science are ever evolving, which means your content requires continuous updating or even replacement.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
Poor communication severely limits a program. When I first started with Pay-Less, my tendency was to develop a project concept alone, then present a proposal to the relevant departments. I realized that working in isolation also breeds an isolated program that is detached from the priorities of others.
I have learned to ask for feedback at the conception of a project and consider the demands that are being placed on other departments to execute the project. It is so important to incorporate project needs into an existing process, rather than disrupting the workflow (when possible). By approaching Health Smart with a collaborative mindset, I have noticed a significant change in the way others support and engage in the program. That company buy-in is key to building and maintaining a successful program.
Has there been anything specific that help you moved forward in your role?
Partnerships have been essential to the growth and success of the Health Smart program. Pay-Less has eight store locations and nearly 800 employees. As the company’s sole dietitian, disseminating information across stores, departments, and shifts is a challenge. Building relationships with specific individuals in each store and department fosters reliable communication and creates program advocates at all levels of the organization.
Is there a program or initiative of which you are most proud?
Since April 2019, I have pushed for insurance coverage for medical nutrition therapy services offered through Pay-Less. Last October, we were finally approved to provide a pilot program for Diabetes Medical Nutrition Therapy and Medication Management (in collaboration with our pharmacy) with 100% coverage of six sessions and up to four prescription refills for continuous glucose monitoring. Within the past month, I received my first cohort of 21 referrals. For the duration of my experience with Pay-Less, Health Smart has been a cost-center. I am excited to shift gears and help drive revenue to this great company, which has dedicated resources in good faith to allow this program to grow and flourish.
Bio: Rosae Calvo is the Supermarket Dietitian for Pay-Less Markets, a locally owned grocery chain in Guam. She strives to make the healthy choice an easy choice for shoppers through store content creation, nutrition education and therapy, and community outreach. Through active partnerships with the University of Guam and Guam Department of Education, Rosae has helped establish Pay-Less as a community leader in health and wellness. She was initially drawn to nutrition by her passion for sports, and remains an enthusiast as a member of Guam Rugby Football Union and Guam National Olympic Committee Medical & Anti-Doping Commission.