ShopRite becomes classroom for dietitians
Program run by graduate teaches students how to shop with nutritional needs in mind
West Chester University students have been joining with ShopRite to prepare for careers as dietitians.
Students at West Chester University have been joining with ShopRite this fall to prepare for careers as dietitians.
As part of the program, soonto-be registered dietitians have had the opportunity to work with a ShopRite dietitian – a West Chester grad herself – to assist customers with their health and wellness needs while receiving firsthand experience. The training began Oct. 2 and is continuing.
The program is being sponsored by a grant from the Delaware-based Produce For Better Health Foundation. The Store Tour Training Grant Program gives students tours of the store on West Chester Pike outside of West Chester. The students will then give tours to the general public and answer their questions on nutrition.
Jena Wood, a retail dietitian for the ShopRite of West Chester, is training the students and oversees the tours. She received her bachelor of science in nutrition from West Chester University and is currently enrolled in its master’s of science in community nutrition program.
Wood recently said she is working with 20 students, giving them 2½-hour tours, when they discuss the nutritional value and proper preparation methods of different foods.
Too much emphasis is placed on fresh, she said.
“We did a survey of them, going over serving sizes and the fruits and vegetables we should be eating,” said Wood, who graduated in 2013. “We went into the misconceptions – how it all fits together, not just fresh. Canned, frozen, dried and 100 percent juices, they all play a role. Frozen is my favorite” because the food doesn’t go bad after a short period of time.
Relatively new to the scene, dietitians are becoming more common in supermarkets as consumers become more concerned about what they are putting into their bodies. ShopRite now employs 130 dietitians covering 140 of its 260 stores.
The partnership with West Chester University is welcomed at the local ShopRite.
“We are very excited to begin this partnership with West Chester University nutrition students and the Produce for Better Health Foundation,” said Tammy Miller Sheeler, HR manager for KTM Supermarkets Inc. ShopRites in West Chester and Hatfield. “As a family and business, we are committed to serving our community and providing opportunities for our customers to lead more healthful lives. This produce and nutrition based grant is an excellent addition to that effort.”
In her job, Wood gives free nutrition and weight loss advice,
does cooking classes and visits schools, senior centers and other community gathering spots.
“Fifteen years ago, this position didn’t exist,” she noted. “Now, it’s a growing field.”
Health concerns such as diabetes and heart disease are leading shoppers to be more selective in their purchases. High health insurance costs and corporate wellness plan also are creating more discerning consumers, Wood said.
Asked for what advice she would give on nutrition to the average shopper, Wood didn’t hesitate.
“I would tell them to increase their fiber intake and water intake,” the dietitian said. That means more fruits, vegetables and beans for the average shopper, she said.
ShopRite supermarkets are located throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland. To find a dietitian, visit ShopRite.com.