Retail Dietitian Close Up: Holly Long, RDN, LDN, Publix
Interviewed by RDBA Contributing Editor Amanda Rubizhevsky, MPH, NC
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
While earning my bachelor’s degree I had an opportunity to meet dietitians practicing in a wide range of settings, including a corporate retail dietitian. A few years later as an intern, I knew it was time to reach out for advice on how to become an ideal candidate. I had a phone call with a retail dietitian who was a wealth of knowledge and she shared her experiences and tips. Fast forward a few years after founding my career working in different roles: nutrient analyzer, interim patient services manager, and an adult in-patient dietitian with UNC Health Care, I decided I wanted to practice dietetics in a different setting. I applied the minute I saw the posting for Publix in-store dietitian and that’s where I gratefully accepted one of the three in-store dietitian positions.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Most individuals have a better understanding of what a dietitian can do for them in the hospital but when it comes to the supermarket it is a different story. Not only is having a dietitian located at the store new for customers it is also new to our associates. Educating both our customers and associates on the services that we can provide for them and their families has proven challenging.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back? If yes, tell us about this and how you dealt with it.
Starting out I think most dietitians feel the pressure to know the answer to every nutrition question. However, science is always advancing and I realized that even dietitians practicing for many years often research and discuss with their colleagues before providing customers with an answer. This process is actually something to take pride in, and it’s our role as the experts to review the research and take the science of nutrition and turn it into practical language for our customers.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
Building strong relationships with my dietitian team. Each dietitian has unique skills from their previous experiences whether it’s in culinary or working with a specific population. Our team communicates and supports each other well, which allows us to better educate our customers and adds to the Publix Dietitian Services program.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
The role of retail dietitian incorporates skills from each setting of dietetics including community, clinical, and food service. I didn’t know this at the time, but I’m thankful my first job was not jumping into the retail industry. Looking back I am grateful to have had the opportunity to practice in different settings which equipped me to adapt to my role and provided a foundation for my future practice in the retail industry. I would encourage others to embrace each experience from volunteer hours, internship rotations, and job experiences because even if you aren’t practicing dietetics in your dream setting, the skills you gain equip you for succeeding in the retail industry.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
I would have to say our tag program. Our corporate dietitians have put in a tremendous amount of work to bring it to life. This program can assist customers in making more informed choices and simplifies comparing nutrients and ingredients in products. I am always excited to educate customers on resources that can guide them to making more informed and healthful decisions. Customers always come back thanking me for educating them on how to utilize the tag program.
Holly Long is a registered, licensed dietitian nutritionist and earned her Bachelor of Science Degree from The University of Tennessee. Prior to joining Publix in December 2014, Holly worked as Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill, NC, in roles ranging from nutrition analyzer and patient services manager to an adult in-patient clinical dietitian with emphasis in otolaryngology (ENT), dialysis, and geriatrics.