Retail Dietitian Close Up: Lauren Purdy, Wakefern
Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly
Lauren Purdy, R.D. is a dietitian for ShopRite Supermarkets, Inc. located in Clark, New Jersey. She provides complimentary nutrition services to Clark and the surrounding community, including interactive cooking demonstrations and classes, store tours, and nutrition counseling. Lauren’s passion is to use her clinical knowledge to provide simplified solutions to help customers make healthier food choices.
Tell us a little bit about Wakefern.
Wakefern Food Corp., owns and operates 33 ShopRite stores in New York and New Jersey. Founded in 1946, the Wakefern cooperative is comprised on 50 members who individually own and operate more than 250 supermarkets in the ShopRite banner in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware.
What’s the story on your experience in retail and your position with Wakefern?
Ironically, I planned on going the clinical route for most of my undergraduate career. During my internship, I had an elective rotation with a ShopRite retail dietitian, and knew that this was the perfect job for me. I’ve been my current position over two and a half years and feel like it’s a perfect match up relaying the clinical knowledge into customer friendly education.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Coming from a clinical setting, the biggest challenge has been learning the flow and operation of a retail setting.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
As a retail dietitian, we perform many hands-on cooking classes and demos. Because of this, I wish that I would have immersed myself more in the culinary arts during my nutrition education.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back? If yes, tell us about this and how you dealt with it.
With any job there are challenges, however, with my personality and the support from my store I have been able to overcome these obstacles and persevere.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward? If yes, tell us about this.
Yes, the supportive role of our store associates and management. The team embraces my position and always supports my initiatives and events.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
Subscribing to grocery retail magazines and participating in hands-on retail operation classes that our company provides has been essential.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
Through my work at the ShopRite of Clark, N.J., it became clear to me that there was a lack of support for the gluten free community. To fill that void, I teamed up with the Celiac Sprue Association to create the first gluten free support group in the United States that meets monthly in a grocery store. Programs and events typically offered include guest speakers, cooking demos, product tasting and peer support. Having a celiac support group in a grocery store is the perfect platform to provide our customers with product knowledge and the nutrition education they need to live healthy happy lives.