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Kristen Riley's Growth Journey at Food Lion, From HBCU Roots to Leadership.

Kristen Riley
Posted By: Sofía Montiel on March 20, 2024

As you navigate your career journey, there's one invaluable asset you should never underestimate: mentorship. Kristen Riley, Food Lion's Division Vice President for the Northern Division, knows this firsthand. She started as a Retail Management Trainee in 2004, and gained extensive experience in various roles, ultimately leading to her current leadership position.

Looking back, Kristen emphasizes the significant role mentors played in her career. At Winston-Salem State, her Alma Mater, and Food Lion, mentors provided valuable guidance and helped her understand the qualities needed for successful leadership in a diverse workplace.

In a candid interview with HBCU CONNECT, Kristen provided insight into the complexities of her role, drawing from her firsthand experience as a participant in Food Lion's Retail Management Trainee Program.

Kristen noted the transforming influence of this program, which provided recent graduates like her with an in-depth understanding of Food Lion's operations and culture. Reflecting on her time as a trainee, Kristen remarked, "One of the things I just really, really appreciate is the ability for me to have some type of discernment and leadership maturity to understand it was going to be good for me and my career to take on a program like that." This immersive experience exposed her to the day-to-day responsibilities of various roles within the company, instilling in her a deep appreciation for frontline associates and their vital contributions.

Kristen's path from trainee to Division Vice President demonstrates the importance of hands-on experience and grasping opportunities as they present.

In her current role overseeing operations in Food Lion's Northern Division across Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, Kristen Riley manages over 200 locations and 15,000 associates.

With over 13 years of experience within the company, Kristen's professional journey showcases her dedication and leadership prowess. Kristen emphasizes, "My role is about more than just overseeing operations. It's about being a cheerleader for our associates and ensuring our stores align with Food Lion's brand and values."

Lessons from Kristen's Career

Kristen's journey, from her roots in North Carolina to her current leadership role, is marked by resilience and a commitment to continuous growth. Her self-help book, "From Journey, Not Arrival," exemplifies this philosophy.

Kristen explains, "Right when you think you've gotten somewhere, you realize that there's more to learn, there's more to grow in. Am I worried about getting from point A to point B, or am I experiencing the journey being present in those moments? Versus focusing on the next step, and the next step, and so on. It's a concept that I've learned to get better at, that it is about the journey and not about where you're going."

Diversifying Your Experiences, the Foundation of Success

Building a solid foundation for your career involves embracing diverse experiences. Kristen's career path embodies the idea of continuous learning. Each challenge she faced added another layer of invaluable experience to her career.
"Every experience connects us to where we should be in each season of our life," Kristen reflects, which rings true throughout her career. Kristen embraced diverse experiences, and each broadened her perspective, laying the groundwork for success in any role she took.

Local Engagement, Global Impact at Food Lion's Core


The Food Lion CIAA Men's and Women's Basketball Tournament 2024 took place from February 26th to March 3rd. Food Lion has partnered with the CIAA, the nation's oldest HBCU athletic conference, since 1994.

A deep commitment to local communities is at the heart of Food Lion's concept. Despite being part of a global retail organization, Food Lion prioritizes maintaining a local presence and connection. Kristen highlights, "As we continue to write the story of who we are, we always come back to how we serve in our communities, how we show up in the towns and cities that we serve."

With a focus on fostering a unified organizational culture and delivering exceptional customer experiences, Kristen's leadership is integral to Food Lion's success. Beyond her operational responsibilities, Food Lion's longstanding partnership with the CIAA tournament shows the impact of this collaboration.


Food Lion participated in the Career Expo, meeting with students to discuss corporate and retail opportunities across Food Lion’s 10-state footprint. The Talent Acquisition team led a workshop to engage with students and recent alumni, sharing the story of Food Lion’s brand strategy and culture and what sets the company apart as an employer in CIAA communities.

Kristen Riley dives deep into the numerous aspects of the CIAA tournament partnership that fill her with pride. Notably, Food Lion's investment of $7.5 million in scholarships for CIAA schools highlights the company's commitment to education and empowerment. Moreover, by establishing food pantries on HBCU campuses, including those within the CIAA network, Food Lion further demonstrates its proactive approach to addressing food insecurity among students, with approximately $200,000 donated to date.


Through its hunger-relief platform, Food Lion Feeds, Food Lion has donated $200K to CIAA food pantries.


Food Lion made a donation of $200,000 in academic scholarships to support CIAA students and student-athletes. Since 2004, Food Lion has donated more than $7.5 million in scholarships to CIAA schools.

Kristen Riley's vital role in community initiatives like women's empowerment brunches, career fairs, and food pantry donations mirrors Food Lion's dedication to giving back and making change where it matters most.

Kristen Riley embodies the core values of HBCUs. Her leadership at Food Lion and commitment to community engagement showcase the transformative impact of embracing every step of the journey.

As you build your career path, regardless of the circumstances, move forward with determination. Your career is not a destination but an exciting adventure. Accept and learn from each twist and turn, and let them propel you to greatness.
If you enjoyed this article, Join HBCU CONNECT today for similar content and opportunities via email!
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