Boosting employee wellness with local produce
Credit: Josh Mandell, Charlottesville Tomorrow
Josh Mandell | Sunday, July 29, 2018 at 5:35 p.m.
Albemarle County among clients of Fresh Farmacy, but participation is low
Albemarle County’s human resources department has made locally grown fruits and vegetables part of its workplace health program.
The county’s BeWell initiative is in the second year of a partnership with Local Food Hub’s Fresh Farmacy. The subscription-based, seasonal share of produce from Central Virginia farms is delivered to the County Office Building twice a month.
Local Food Hub is a nonprofit organization that partners with small family farmers in Virginia to increase access to local food. Lisa Reeder, farm and food access coordinator for Local Food Hub, said the convenience of delivery to the workplace is only part of Fresh Farmacy’s appeal.
“We also try to create a connection and awareness between the shareholder and the farms that are growing the product,” Reeder said.
Each Fresh Farmacy delivery comes with an issue of “What’s in My Bag?,” a newsletter with information about the produce included and the farmers who grew it.
Fresh Farmacy participants can subscribe for a half-season with four deliveries for $121.36, or a full season with eight deliveries for $242.72.
Reeder said subscribers can expect to receive eight to 12 pounds of produce with at least six different items in each delivery.
Fresh Farmacy also is available to employees of Crutchfield and the University of Virginia Medical Center.
Albemarle’s human resources department used a $1,000 grant from the county’s Innovation Fund to pilot Fresh Farmacy in 2017. The money was used to hire an intern to help to coordinate the deliveries.
“Albemarle has been very responsible about time and resources they can dedicate to it, knowing they are using public funds,” Reeder said.
The Fresh Farmacy Workplace Wellness Program is an offshoot of the Fruit and Veggie Prescription Program, which serves patients at three area health clinics.
Reeder said both programs can help parents instill healthy eating habits in their children at an early age. Some of the recipes in each “What’s in My Bag?” newsletter are developed and tested by children in cooking classes offered by the PB&J Fund in Charlottesville.
“They may not like it every time, but they are developing personal relationships with broccoli, tomatoes and kale, and experiencing them with their own senses,” Reeder said.
Reeder said each share of produce usually includes an “oddball” item that subscribers probably wouldn’t put on a typical shopping list.
“We gently push the envelope of what people are accustomed to buying and preparing,” Reeder said.
Some of this year’s more unusual items include salad turnips and garlic scapes — the green flower stalks of the garlic plant.
“I needed to Google the garlic scapes,” said Elise Kiewra, a GIS specialist in the Albemarle’s Department of Community Development who signed up for Fresh Farmacy this year.
Kiewra said she has enjoyed trying out new recipes with ingredients from local farms.
“You have a limited window before the vegetables expire, so that motivates you to use them as soon as you can,” she said.
Only two dozen of roughly 3,200 Albemarle government and school employees subscribed to Fresh Farmacy for the latest half-season.
“I would love to reach a larger percentage [of our employees], but anything that promotes a culture of health and wellness is helpful,” said Leanne Knox, safety and wellness program manager for the county.
Knox said she hopes Fresh Farmacy can start conversations about healthy eating among county employees, and inspire them to make changes to their diets.
“It’s not just about good performance on the [county’s] health insurance plan; it’s about making employees happier, more present and the best they can be in their lives,” she said.
Knox said that county employees will be able to pick up Fresh Farmacy deliveries at Albemarle, Monticello and Western Albemarle High schools this fall if minimum enrollment requirements are met at each site. The deadline to register for the next half-season is Aug. 10.
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