Local hospitals bring farm-fresh produce to employees

Article Published: Sep. 29, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 29, 2011
Local hospitals bring farm-fresh produce to employees

Community supported agriculture is growing its way into the workplace.
Photos submitted

Every week, 80 families living in Avery and Watauga Counties are literally enjoying the fruit of two local farmers’ labor, thanks to Leslie Roberts, wellness coordinator for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

“I thought if I could launch a CSA (community supported agriculture) at our worksite, it would not only help our employees increase their vegetable consumption, it would also support our local farmers. You can’t get any easier than farm fresh produce delivered to your worksite doorstep.”

With increasing health-care costs directly related to poor nutrition and inactive lifestyles, many large employers hire people like Leslie to assist employees and their families with healthier living. Studies have shown that worksite wellness programs reduce benefit costs, boost morale and lead to more productive employees. Eating more fruits and vegetables is the easiest way to improve eating habits.
The employees seem to love the convenience of having their personal box of food delivered every week.

“I think the fruits and vegetables are wonderful,” one employee said. “And just think how much time and money is saved by having it delivered.”

Another employee shared, “Personally, participating has forced me to eat items that I tend to walk by at the grocery store, which is a good thing. I like the idea of supporting a local farmer, and he’s saving me a trip to the grocery store. If I get something that I don’t like to eat, I share it with family and friends. Everyone outside our organization that I’ve told about the CSA thinks it’s a great idea. They like that ARHS is supporting a local farmer.”

This CSA worksite model benefited local growers Bill Moretz (Watauga County) and Waightstill Avery (Avery County) by paying them a price per “share” before the growing season began, when their money and supplies from the previous season were low. As Leslie suggests, the best way to get employees to participate is by payroll deduction.

“Another feature of the program that really helped our participation was allowing the employee to payroll deduct the cost of their CSA in bi-weekly increments,” she said. “By spreading the cost over the entire course of the CSA, it made it more affordable for the participants.”

The worksite CSA model could potentially expand the number of acres in production across our region. Everyone has to eat, so instead of sending money to China for garlic, for example, we need to find ways to easily distribute our local abundance. Supporting local food creates jobs and boosts our local economy.

Since growers plan and order seeds in the winter, between now and Christmas is the time to plan for your CSA to start up spring 2012. If you would like more information on how to get a worksite CSA started, please discuss this idea with your favorite growers at the farmers’ market or contact me. I will be happy to help match you with a grower. Another helpful source is highcountrygrown.org.

This week’s recipe is a way to use part of your pumpkin or winter squash for a fall party.

Pumpkin Dip

12 ounces Neufchatel cheese
½ cup brown sugar

Beat together until well blended.

1 cup of cooked and pureed pumpkin (or winter squash)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Add and beat until smooth.
Serve with sliced apples, pears, or other fruit, graham crackers and gingersnaps.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. To contact Margie, email margie_mansure@ncsu.edu or call (828) 264-3061.

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