By: Krystal Register, MS, RDN, LDN, Director, Health & Well-being, FMI
To showcase just how some of our members are encouraging health and well-being with a focus on the essential food industry workforce, we decided to reach out to hear more from one very inspirational supermarket employee, Lori Hamilton, registered nurse, and director of healthy initiatives at K-VA-T Food Stores, also known affectionately as “Nurse Lori.” With full support from K-VA-T Food Stores leadership, Lori works to ensure their associates are supported in all aspects of health and well-being.
The pandemic has brought many challenges for our frontline supermarket employees, from frenzied and exhausting days, to added stress and burnout. Quite often, these issues trigger mental, emotional and physical health problems. Protecting those on the frontlines seems to come naturally to a genuine, caring nurse like Lori, so she is dedicated to offering support, sharing resources and information about wellness programming and health benefits. She refers to K-VA-T and Food City associates as their most valued asset.
When asked why she believes the grocery store is the ideal place to promote health and well-being programs, Lori simply stated that, “Everyone needs food and food is essential, just like our associates are essential.” Providing health and nutrition resources and messaging in the convenient environment of the grocery store makes good sense. Lori works with K-VA-T Food Stores registered dietitian, Elizabeth Hall, to direct employees to the very same dietitian created programs and resources that are available to customers, to include the shelf tag Dietitian Picks attribute labeling program, virtual store tours, and an internal diabetes management program created just for employees.
During the pandemic, one of the biggest challenges in delivering health and well-being programs to employees was lack of time together in-person. It is first-nature for a nurse to be hands on, giving hugs and personally assessing a situation, so naturally connecting with associates with in-person store visits was a regular part of every day in the past.
Lori was able to flip her biggest challenge into an incredible success. Initially concerned about how the shift to virtual visits online might negatively affect communications, Lori quickly found that meeting with associates one-on-one via Teams or Zoom helped keep communications open and became one of the biggest successes in delivering health and well-being programs during the pandemic. As her typical in-person store visits switched to virtual one-on-one calls, she was able to interface privately and personally with over 3,000 employees, checking in on everything from medications and blood sugar levels to securing COVID tests and making doctor’s appointments.
Lori embraces her unique background as a nurse, with compassion and skills to not only to be a patient advocate for her associates, but also to clearly see the important aspect of keeping all associates personally healthy and well to positively impact overall business.