Workplace wellness to join corporate social responsibility through volunteering at urban farms

Workplace wellness lifestyle management should be fun with nutrition; eating local is healthy

By Gregory Jackson

Workplace Wellness by Rand

(Image by Rand)

One opportunity to get involved with urban farms is through workplace wellness programs where you would volunteer with our urban farm partners to benefit urban farmer, inner city youth, school students, and the developmental disabilities.

Workplace wellness, founded under the Affordable Care Act, is a non-discriminatory wellness program in group health coverage.  While the program emphasis up to a 50% cost reduction for tobacco cessation, it also contains two different categories of workplace wellness for premium discounts or rebates.  Groundz goal is to connect an employer’s corporate social responsibility (CSR objectives) that are common in community volunteer or service days, like the ones found in October where companies like Ford Motor Company, Key Bank (the official bank of Groundz), Case Western Reserve University, Fairmount Minerals, and other organizations and companies have participated.

Like most workplace wellness programs, ours will also be participatory, but focus on health care cost savings with an integrated lifestyle management component for diet-related illness.

In Do Workplace Wellness Programs Save Employers Money (PDF) at a cost of $144 per year per employee yielded a $136 per month per employee in health related savings, or for every $1 invested in prevention and health promotion a return of $3.78 in health care cost.  As compared to 25 cents for lifestyle management where 87 percent of the savings came from disease management, according to RAND says that a successful workplace wellness program needs both components.  In other words, while 87 percent savings came through disease management, 13 percent of employees participated in it.  On the other hand, there is higher participation in lifestyle management with slight savings.

Objective of Groundz workplace wellness program is to establish year round lifestyle management participation at farms to cultivate mentoring relationships with inner city youth, developmental disabilities, and school students to benefit employer “community service days” and to reduce the cost of health care coverage by encouraging employees who volunteer at urban and learning farms, to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Employees want to have fun in workplace wellness and make a difference in their communities.

PepsiCo offers their employees a lifestyle management component in their Healthy Living program (a New York Times article about workplace wellness programs).  In the PepsiCo example, adding a lifestyle component may lower health care costs after the third year.  Lifestyle management is a long-term component to workplace wellness while disease management produces savings in the short-run.  In other words, lifestyle management is a sustaining component that maintains disease management savings.

Groundz short-term health care savings component for employers is nutrition as prevention and health promotion.

Kevin Concannon, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition & Consumer Services of the USDA attended an elementary school during lunchtime.  He noted that a 5th grader selected kale on his plate and asked:  “What’s that on your plate?”

“That’s kale; we grow it here at school.”

As employees assist urban farmers grow food they begin to appreciate the harvesting process of eating healthier.  One of Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute programs is to have patients meet with a Wellness chef to learn how to cook in the kitchen and teach culinary skills, to learn what a wooden spoon is, a whisk, ramekin, and applications to prepare themselves a healthy meal.  After patients learn basic cooking skills, they have dramatically improved their eating habits, according to Dr. Mladen Golubic, Cleveland Clinic Wellness doctor.

At Groundz urban farms, farmers and job coaches will show you how to grow food by helping farm workers with composting, weeding, watering, and harvesting.  When employees learn how to compost they can also begin composting in their own backyards for organic gardening and developing a deeper appreciation for growing nutrient-dense foods.

There is an emotive-value added pride in preparing your own meal and growing your own food as an accomplishment; helping those with disabilities and inner city youth.  Some have also observed that being hungry at work (BizJournal article) is distracting and sleeping in meetings is not productive.

We are living longer, but our feeling unhealthy or being in fair health, is increasing.  The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) interviews people over 50 every two years.  They found that men aged 55-64 reported themselves as “fair” or “poor” feeling of health larger remains unchanged, but as we age our percentage of feeling unhealthy increases, according to the National Center for Health Statistics data.

While we are living longer, we now have the technology to extend life expectancy, especially with those who have chronic ailments, and live longer lives while sick.

Since we work with a variety of local farmers, organizations, and businesses there are opportunities that best fit your employee’s workplace culture.  For instance, job tasks requiring employees to stand or walk for most of their shift will not be interested in performing strenuous activity like fitness programs.  They may be interested in composting, soil, and other farm-related tasks; learning how to eat healthier as a way to manage their weight loss goals and grow their own food.  We are also interested in collaborating with your current health partners to learn if changes in health care utilization would be of benefit.

To help employers measure the success of a Groundz workplace wellness program, Rand recommends key performance indicators (KPIs).

Our KPIs include participation data from our urban farmers on what your employee did by date and location.  If the farm task requires job coaching an urban farm worker with disabilities an employee will submit a short paragraph of the mentoring role the individual had during their volunteering at their next performance evaluation with you.

How is your employee contributing to their own nutrition improvement habits and is it encouraging others to eat better at your workplace?

Community Assisted Agriculture (CSAs) is a type of membership where individuals pay to receive weekly local food from our urban farmer.  For example, urban farmer Diane Morgan, at Maggie’s Farm, oversees about 300 CSA members.  One week they may receive a bag of tomatoes, another week homemade granola… she also has “MyPatch” where employees could rent a spot at her urban farm to grow their own food, or your employee may sign up for a CSA.  CSA or rent a “MyPatch” as a KPI would be a strong indicator for Groundz workplace wellness.

We have already contacted a few of our urban farmers and they are interested in participating.  Discount CSAs may be available depending on your employee’s participation, Groundz will pay a discount percentage upon completion of farm tasks, but that would require an element of helping us compost at the farm sites.

At Willow Farm of Forward Church, urban farmer Salonica Payne, helps with a monthly veggie drive to participate in handing out 12,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables to those in need.  How many individuals did your employee serve?  Another KPI is related to your company or organization’s CSR objectives – employee participation engagement during community days – help tell a story about how you are part of the community.  For contingent considerations some of your employees may be unable to commit to a fitness program, but would like to maintain their healthy eating habits with nutrient-dense foods; they may simply focus on our farm volunteering to be emotively attached throughout the process of healthy eating.

We have unique collaboration relationships with organic seed companies and organizations.  To encourage your employees to participate and receive recognition for achievement, we will donate organic seeds for their personal gardening and growing curiosity for healthy eating and organic yard.

Groundz also works with McGregor Home for healing gardens.  KPI for healing gardens include how employees help elderly get out and grow their own food.  Mary Beth Bovee, Groundz horticultural therapist representative at McGregor Home, maintains a greenhouse, herb gardens, and vegetable growing program for residents and school students.  For instance, many learning gardens at schools need help growing and maintaining their schoolyard gardens during the summer, along with some intrepid students gardening during their summer break.

Groundz is VeloSano’s official nutrition partner.  VeloSano is Cleveland Clinic’s charity bike ride for cancer research funding.  As the employer we believe making note of your employee’s participation in bike riding for VeloSano should consider activities your employee participation; they have employer-matching options should employees desire to ride for Team Groundz, or they may choose to start their own VeloSano team led by one of your employees who decide to become a team captain.

Participation may include a variety of VeloSano-related opportunities including, riding for Team Groundz, volunteering as a bicycle mechanic and safety checklist/flagger, cheerleader, or virtual riders.

We also support third-party complete workplace wellness opportunities through our primary partners including Groundz customers, urban farms, schools, and VeloSano.  As an example, we recently participated in a spinning class with VeloSano at Harness Cycle, a cycling studio and retail boutique in Hingetown of Ohio City.  They can host spinning classes up to 30 people, intense full-body workout where participants “dance” with the music beat.

“Don’t exaggerate the sway,” said Ann, owner of Harness Cycle.  “It will waste your energy.”

She is interested in participating with Groundz workplace wellness program, where employees could have fun in a unique spinning/cycling experience as a group.  Employees may choose their own play list; get ready to dance on your bike to your favorite songs.  The next week, employees may go to a Groundz urban farm to volunteer do the earth-to-table lifestyle and then return to a spinning class the next workplace wellness activity.

Ann offers 6 different types of spinning classes:  Single, 3-Class Series, 5-Class Series, 10-Class Series, 20-Class Series, and Happy Hour.  For KPI, the number of participants in a variety of frequency enrollment can measure useful information on how “fit” your employees are.  It is not necessarily how many 20-Class Series participants can we fill, but more about diversity benchmark participation across the board.  And at nine spinning instructors, Harness Cycle has endless workout varieties with different endurance levels.

Groundz will also seek unique active living opportunities with our customers, for instance, Cleveland Metroparks has many guided hikes, outdoor programming, and recreation.  Others may have winter sports opportunity like Nordic cross-country, skate skiing, and snowshoeing.

Over time, the metric would fill out in a balanced, diverse, and complete data foundation.  We are not sure what Happy Hour for spinning may be, but Groundz is thinking this may be something you have to earn.

We expect employers to provide us with quarterly feedback on ways we can improve Groundz workplace wellness.  Since we are about eating healthy, one of our strategies to raise awareness of encouraging participation is a quarterly healthy (local foods) donation during board meetings to replace high caloric snacks, or during any meeting you may require snacks.

Let Groundz help your employees achieve complete wellness goals for their nutrition, active, and community needs to address a variety of your employees’ lifestyle management for health.  Contact us today so we may work together and help you achieve long-term workplace wellness.


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