Living healthy requires effort. And some workplaces are taking the lead in encouraging people to live the healthiest lives they can. Workplace wellness programs have emerged as an option for employers to help workers adopt healthy habits. Larger workplaces often have incentives for employees to exercise regularly and choose nutritious foods.
Some workplaces have embraced locally-grown food as a component of their workplace wellness plan through Community Supported Agriculture, or CSAs. Workplace CSAs allow employees to sign up for a weekly box of farm-fresh food that they can pick up at work.
In some cases, the farmer is paid at the beginning of the season and the employer uses payroll deductions to spread out employee payments over several months. That’s how it works at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System in Boone, North Carolina.
Employee Wellness Manager Leslie Roberts tried a few different approaches before deciding on a workplace CSA.
”In my role as a wellness manager, I really wanted to figure out a way to support our employees at our facilities—to give them easy access to better nutrition. So I went down the path of a farmer’s market idea, an onsite weekly farmer’s market. But when that didn’t catch on like I’d hoped, I regrouped and developed this modified CSA model for our employees,” she explains.
Leslie says the farmers market wasn’t a good fit because employees often didn’t carry cash and the location in the parking garage didn’t lend itself to an enjoyable shopping experience. She says paying in advance and having a central pick-up spot is more appealing to staff.
“For employees, it’s super convenient because they can just come by whenever they get off work and just grab their bag on their way home and throw it in the car,” Leslie adds.
This year, there are more than 40 employees participating in the CSA, including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, and staff in the finance and marketing departments.
Leslie worked with a registered dietician at the local agricultural extension office to find a farmer that could supply the CSA with fresh food. Amy Fiedler of Springhouse Farm grows produce just 15 minutes away from the hospital, and Leslie says their relationship benefits both the employees and the farm.
“There’s this level of convenience, not only for our employees, but also the farmer as well. She is able to harvest the fruits and vegetables and pack the bags and just come and drop them off in our designated area. It’s convenient for her because she doesn’t have to wait around and meet people,” Leslie says.
Springhouse Farm once had a more traditional CSA where members picked up their boxes at its produce stand or at the farmers market each week. Amy was also part of a multi-farm CSA, but she says the workplace CSA has been the best fit.
“By far I would say the hospital workplace CSA was the best for me for a lot of different reasons. Number one, because I have Leslie who is an amazing marketer and I consider her my friend. We’ve been working together for so many years and she’s just a great person and she really supports the CSA model,” Amy says.
The workplace CSA helps Springhouse Farm with things like crop planning. Amy can anticipate how much produce she’ll need to fill the boxes each week, so she knows how many seeds to buy in the spring. Working with Leslie also gives Amy more time to be on the farm, which is especially precious during the growing season.
“The happiest and the most productive I am is when I’ve got my hands in the dirt. I don’t necessarily want to be that person on the phone all the time or sending out emails and marketing my business, which you have to do to be successful. So she comes in and she covers that aspect. That’s super helpful to me that she can communicate with the members and she comes out with a weekly email letting them know what’s in their box and if there’s something strange she’ll do the recipes. It’s just really high quality work that she does,” Amy says.
Now, eight years later, the workplace CSA has become an integral part of Springhouse Farm’s business model as well as employee culture at the hospital.
“it’s just a win-win for both the employees and the farmer because it’s a super convenient, easy way to give access to fresh fruits and vegetables that are locally grown. I just encourage other employers to do this,” Leslie says.
Learn more about workplace CSAs and find resources for the public and employers at www.asapconnections.org
Aired: September 9, 2019