A Crutchfield employee is handed carrots delivered by Local Food Hub at Crutchfield headquarters on Wednesday. Credit: Ryan M. Kelly, The Daily Progress

Fresh, local produce recently joined the list of employee perks for staff of Albemarle County-based Crutchfield Corp.

In partnership with the Local Food Hub, the consumer electronics retailer has joined a Farm to Workplace program providing employees with boxes of local fruit and vegetables every other week.

Demand was high to sign up for the program. Out of Crutchfield’s nearly 400 area employees, 78 of them are participating.

“We had a great turnout,” said Ella Reed, donations coordinator for Crutchfield. “There were more people who would have participated but we ran out of shares to offer.”

The first pickup for employees was in mid-June, with participating employees receiving seasonal produce such as summer squash and cherries. Employees had the choice to sign up for a small or large share of produce. Deliveries will run through October.

Farm to Workplace is the first direct-to-consumer program for the Local Food Hub, according to Laura Brown, the organization’s communications and marketing associate.

“We had so much fun meeting their employees,” Brown said. “They were really interested in asking questions about the food and the growers.”

To provide an incentive for employees to participate in the program, Crutchfield is subsidizing the cost for each participant. With the company covering $5 per box, employees pay $20 for a small box or $30 for a large box.

The initiative is one of many in Crutchfield’s employee wellness program, which addresses all aspects of health.

“We’re trying to take a holistic approach to wellness,” said Chris Lilley, chief human resource officer for Crutchfield. “One of our basic beliefs is that we have a respectful workplace where we respect our co-workers. One of the ways that we do that is to help them find ways to live in a healthy way.”

Crutchfield employees also receive discounts on their health insurance premiums for being non-smokers and maintaining a healthy body weight, according to Reed. “If we get a good report from our annual checkup, we get money for that,” she said.

Mindfulness training, breathing technique classes and a dog-friendly office also aim to add to a happy, healthy workplace.

“If you look at people’s ID photos from when they started to now, they actually look younger and healthier now than they did when they first started working here,” Reed said. “That really speaks volumes.”

“[The wellness program] is also functional,” Lilley said. “We are a self-insured, small company. The healthier our employees are … the less we’ll have to spend on health care and the more productive we’ll be. We want to set model behavior and show our employees how they can live a healthier life.”

Crutchfield was eager to partner with the Local Food Hub not only to provide fresh produce to its employees, but also to broaden efforts to give back to the community.

“Part of our core business is about community, about giving back to local organizations and schools,” said Lilley. “By working with the Local Food Hub, we’re able to extend our community giving to over 80 farms that they work with.”

Other local businesses are catching wind of the program and have expressed interest in doing something similar for their staffs.

“Before we even launched, we got several emails from other large businesses in the area wanting to do a similar program for their employees,” Brown said. “Right now, we’re just treating the Crutchfield program as a pilot. Then we can make an informed decision if this is something we want to do moving forward.”

Crutchfield officials said they hope to inspire other local businesses to invest in employee wellness.

Lilley encourages other businesses to “dive in,” offering some words of advice to business owners contemplating an investment in community wellness:

“I think that folks look at the bottom line and want to focus on making a profit,” Lilley said. “They’re afraid of delving into something that doesn’t have a guaranteed return on investment. Studies have shown that every dollar that you put into wellness gets you seven or eight dollars back. It’s a great investment.”

Both Reed and Lilley emphasized the ease of working with the Local Food Hub and the cooperative relationship between the two organizations.

“I want other workplaces to get involved,” Reed said. “If your workplace doesn’t have this, ask for it. Getting fresh, local produce should be easy. It shouldn’t be something you have to go out of your way to do. Here, we’re making it happen.”