Worksite wellness in progress: Part three

Make workplace wellness fruit and vegetable baskets a part of your wellness culture at work.

Employee wellness program offerings are as diverse as there are employers providing wellness programs although common themes do emerge. When looking at the type of lifestyle management programs offered by employers, the number one program offered is nutrition/weight management according to the 2013 RAND report. Nutrition/weight management programs include weight loss challenges, competitions to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, healthy meeting guidelines, healthier options in vending and cafeterias, nutrition education and coaching.

One simple worksite nutrition initiative is the volunteer fruit and vegetable basket. Variations of this concept are widespread across the county but one volunteer fruit and vegetable basket has been going strong for over 10 years in an office of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. It remains one of the most beloved wellness initiatives offered to the employees of that office.

The volunteer fruit basket depends on several key elements:

  1. Requires many willing volunteers to shop weekly to stock the fruit basket
  2. Fruit basket location needs to be accessible to all employees
  3. Requires a coordinator to reconcile the money and distribute it to volunteers for purchases

Most importantly, you will need start-up money for your initial fruit and vegetable purchase, somewhere between $25-30 depending on the time of year and your local growing season. Tompkins County Health Department in New York offers its fruit and snack bowl resources online for other employers to use. This online resource provides many helpful tips including keeping it simple, which is important when you are relying on volunteers to purchase the healthy snacks. Other useful tips include buying items that people will purchase, charging a fair price to cover the expense of the fruits and vegetables and maintaining freshness. Buying local whenever possible is important, but some favorites—such as bananas—just do not grow in the US. Other big sellers are yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, baby carrots, grapes and string cheese. The volunteers will wash and package the snacks in individual-sized portions, so you will need to add snack bags to your costs.

Keeping it simple, offering variety and having fun with communications and signage can make this simple worksite wellness fruit and vegetable basket a part of your wellness culture at work.

Want to make changes toward a healthier lifestyle, such as getting more exercise or eating healthier? Michigan State University Extension offers many health and nutrition workshops throughout Michigan. Visit Events on the Michigan State University Extension website and choose your county for a list of workshops near you.

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