During my dietetic internship I had the opportunity to complete a six-week rotation with retail dietitians at a local grocery store in Springfield, Mo. In this rotation, I focused on the local rural community. In rural communities, people may be at a disadvantage when it comes to quality nutrition due to increased travel time to supermarkets, the expense of healthy foods and a lack of nutrition knowledge.
My goal was to provide free nutrition education to shoppers. I thought the best way to achieve this goal would be by providing scheduled 15-minute group tours of the store, plus one-on-one tours for those interested. In the scheduled group tours, I focused on specific topics, from how to read a food label to nutrition buzzwords to advice on eating well on a budget. Then, I spent downtime at a table near the store entrance or deli section promoting my tours, providing food samples and assisting customers with making healthy shopping decisions.
I used surveys to evaluate my teaching methods and to assess if the tours were working. Between the store tours, food sampling and project promotion, I spoke with more than 200 people. From the comments on the surveys, I learned that the shoppers valued one-on-one tours more than scheduled group tours. The survey results also said that every tour participant learned at least one piece of nutrition information that they did not know before.
I have found readily available, accurate and reliable nutrition information at grocery stores can really make a difference and is needed in rural communities.