By Krystal Register, MS, RDN, LDN, Director, Health & Well-being, FMI
The food retail setting provides unique opportunity for registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) to help improve public health by literally meeting customers in the aisles (or perhaps on the grocery store website) as they navigate food choices and make shopping decisions on a regular basis. Supermarket dietitians are in a very accessible sweet spot between healthcare and public health, where the rubber meets the road, providing innovative, nutrition-focused, solution-oriented guidance for shoppers.
The concept of “Food as Medicine” is based on connecting the science of food and nutrition to health. Making this connection in food retail can be highly effective with slight behavior change that can ultimately enhance shopping, cooking and overall eating patterns. Food as Medicine programs in the food retail environment have defined focus areas that connect food and nutrition to improved health:
- Encouragement of health and well-being.
- Management and treatment of disease.
- Improvement of nutrition security.
- Promotion of food safety.
This conceptual definition for Food as Medicine was developed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation (Defining Food as Medicine in Food Retail blog post) and is supported by the FMI Board Policy Statement on Food as Medicine. FMI will continue to collaborate with the Academy Foundation to promote best practices, develop framework for strategic initiatives, and further support the work of RDNs in food retail settings.
The Academy Foundation has a Food as Medicine website with several supportive resources that have already been developed and more are on the way: www.eatrightfoundation.org/foodasmedicine. The newest resource, the Food as Medicine Retail Nutrition Landscape white paper, provides more background information to include program models and implications within health and well-being platforms and framework for building successful programs.
Also on the Food as Medicine website, a powerful one-minute video showcases the promise that the concept holds when applied strategically to the focus areas, particularly when RDNs in food retail lead the way as trusted experts and key partners in a consumer’s health and shopping journey. And with consumers adding foods to their carts with an increased interest in eating better to stay healthy and well, why not meet them where the rubber meets the road with credible guidance?