Bringing nutritious food to the public - The Buffalo News

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Bringing nutritious food to the public

Mallary Whipple was destined to work at Wegmans.

She grew up in the Rochester area, home to the supermarket chain headquarters. She focused her college education on nutrition. And she chose to attend Penn State “because it had a Wegmans.”

She went on to graduate school at the University at Buffalo and worked for two years in the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh before landing her dream job a little over two years ago.

Whipple, 28 – a registered dietitian who just bought a house in Orchard Park with her husband, Matt – is divisional nutritionist in Buffalo for Wegmans.

“I deal more with education on some of our nutrition themes,” she said. “I spend a lot of time talking about organics and the importance of whole grains. The rest of what I do is about food solutions.

“A lot of our customers and employees know what they should be eating. It’s really just a matter of taking what they already know and putting it on their plate at home.”

Do you have an office?

I don’t, which is what’s kind of great about my job. There are 13 stores in the Buffalo division. Ten of them are in the Buffalo area, ranging from Niagara Falls to this store (in Hamburg). Two of them are in Erie, Pa., and one is in Jamestown. I’m typically in a different store every day, maybe two stores in one day.

How do you split your time?

There are random meetings or trainings or seminars but I schedule everything around the fact that I have to be in every store at least once a month. If it’s just a day where I have computer work to do, I find a (Wegmans) cafe and hang out for the day or borrow somebody’s office. I’ve learned when certain managers are off, so I can steal their office.

What are the responsibilities of your job?

The bulk of my job is to share the ‘Eat Well, Live Well’ message with our stores and customers so that everybody can live healthier, better lives. … Eat your fruits and vegetables, choose whole grains, low-fat dairy. Make sure you go to the doctor. Make sure you know what your blood pressure is like, your blood cholesterol. Move as much as possible. Be active. Get your steps in during the day. Eat with your family. Cook together, plan your meals together, go shopping together.

How does the nutrition team work?

There are three dietitians who work out of Rochester. They spend a lot of their time responding to health- and nutrition-related questions from customers. They also work as internal consultants for the various cross-departments, like purchasing or merchandising or marketing. Then there are four division nutritionists. Their divisions are Pennsylvania, Buffalo, Maryland and Virginia, and Massachusetts. All seven of us work very closely, and we have two nutrition interns.

Do you have an organics department?

We have our Nature’s Market section, which hosts a lot of our ‘special diet’-type foods. It’s where you’ll find the bulk of our gluten-free things. … If you’re looking for almond milk, it’s probably going to be in Nature’s Market and not in dairy. But we have organics in pretty much every department. In produce, we have a great organics wall. In seafood, if we ever have the European Union organic salmon, it stays in seafood. There’s a whole organic section in meats. In grocery, we have organic pasta but it’s with the other pasta.

They’re labeled?

They’re all called out with that green leaf or by the font on our products.

Why should people buy organic?

Organics is a personal choice. The bottom line is you need to feel good about what you’re buying for yourself and what you’re buying for your family. We here at Wegmans believe buying organic and eating organic can help you and your family live a healthier, better life, and it’s better for the environment, because organic foods – whether it’s produce, dairy or animal products – are produced in a more sustainable way, without artificial fertilizers, artificial pesticides, and the soil and the water and air quality are protected with those growing methods. They’re also free of artificial additives and any animals are not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones and, by definition, organic foods are free of genetically modified organisms. Our ‘Food You Feel Good About,’ with a little yellow banner, is on some of our products. That is kind of a little step down from organics, but any food with that banner is free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. It’s also free of trans fats, and from partially hydrogenated oils. It’s also from animals that have not been given antibiotics or hormones, and the foods don’t have high fructose corn syrup.

Is every product in the organic section healthy?

There are organic cookies, organic breakfast pastries, sweet and sugared cereals, so organic does not mean healthy. Organic means that food was produced in a sustainable way without any artificial preservatives or pesticides, and it was grown in a more sustainable way for the earth, but not necessarily that it was healthy. In my opinion, that’s a big misconception about organics.

Do you get the sense people watch what you’re eating?

Yes. Every once in a while, people will go through my cart or they’ll go, ‘Oh, you packed lunch again.’ I don’t mind. I lead by example and I’m OK with that.”


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