A SUPER week: supermarket dietetics

Living Well Eating Smart

As I mentioned previously, I’m working at Big Y this week with their head dietitian and mastermind behind the Living Well Eating Smart program, Carrie Taylor.  We don’t have a supermarket dietetics rotation or any industry rotations in the program at Tulane, so I thought that this would be an interesting bridge between community and industry to explore, and after all the smaller non-profit and government dietitian jobs that I’ve explored thus far something more corporate sounded like a good change of pace.  After all, I could deal with having a little firepower and WIC just doesn’t cut it in that regard.

So where does a supermarket dietitian work?  Although I may joke with Carrie that she sits in the produce section and acts as a cheerleader in hopes that the masses will buy more vegetables, that is not the case.  The job is is office-based based out of the headquarters in Springfield, where a bunch of other important behind-the-scenes people like the  purchasers (the booze guy and the candy lady are right across the aisle), the marketing team, the art department, and more.

And what does a Big Y RD actually do?  Well for starters, she has to support herself.  Andrea (the other dietitian, a fellow UMass alum – HOLLAAA) and Carrie’s salaries are paid by a bi-monthly circular that discusses different nutrition topics, and which food companies pay to be a part of.  That’s not to say they endorse whatever companies decide to dish out the cash – Andrea’s whole job is to work with various vendors to learn about the products out there and approach companies that she likes in order to get nutritious foods into the circular and still get paid.  It’s tough because small farmers can’t pay big bucks, but big food companies can so it might be tempting to let your RD standards slide to make a buck but these ladies are committed to bringing good products to the attention of their readers.

Also in the circular are recipes, healthy living tips, a page for the pharmacy people to do whatever they want, and a kid’s page on the back.  I made one of those kid’s pages, and I will post it here once we get the final version back from the art department.  I had to decide what topic to cover, a fun way to present it, then type it all up, format it properly, and add layout requests and graphic notes so the art dept would make it look the way I hoped.

One really important thing that Carrie is involved in is promoting and educating about the NuVal Scoring system.  NuVal Scores range from 1-100, and are determined by an algorithm that considers the nutrients and ingredients in each food and how that relates to the current research about the effects of nutritional factors on health outcomes of Americans.  Basically, all the “good stuff” goes in the numerator and all the “bad stuff” goes in the denominator (each individual considered item is weighted appropriately based on its impact on health) and then a number is spit out.  The more good stuff, the higher the number; the more bad stuff, the lower the number. It’s really helpful because with so many different factors to consider, relative importance of each can be difficult to determine.  Say, for instance, I’ve got two breads.  One has more fiber than the other, but it also has more sodium.  Which is better?  NuVal figures that out for you.

NuVal was developed independently and is used in a bunch of different stores nationwide, so you may have seen it somewhere other than Big Y.  I know around here it’s also used at Price Chopper.  The system is being re-launched in January, so I have tried to work in mention of NuVal in all the writing I’ve done so far.  Additionally, Carrie gave an entire talk about the system and general nutrition to a group of Health New England employees this afternoon.  I could tell through the talk that NuVal really helps people to feel empowered about their ability to make nutritious choices.

Along with all this other stuff, Carrie does all the nutrition-related media for Big Y: commercials, a spot on the news, articles in the paper, and ads in different print media including the weekly specials.  This is what I have been working on so far this week:

– Scripts for two different TV spots for two different news channels

– An article to be run in the Springfield Republican on Dec 20

– Speaking points from that article for TV appearances

– The kid’s page

– Adding to a list of requested items from vendors to fill the circular with

– Half-page advertisement with nutrition tips for the Sports Department, a print publication in CT

– Proofing scripts written by Carrie and Andrea

– Proofing the ad in the weekly specials

– Revising the NuVal brochure that the stores use

I’ve definitely been busy, but I’ve had a lot of creative freedom so I really like it.  Having lots of things to do has never been an issue for me, in fact I prefer it that way!  I finished the planned assignments within the first day and a half, and have really enjoyed the variety of work that Carrie has been throwing at me.  Drawbacks to this kind of job are that it’s conventional hours in a conventional space.  I really like having the flexibility to schedule a run in the middle of my day if I so choose, and being able to enjoy the daylight hours outside.  Also, there is not much client interaction which I really really love.  Overall though, definitely in the top 3 rotations thus far – probably top 2 “can see myself here” rotations.  I’ll update when I have pretty versions of all my work =)

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