Lawrence employees, health leaders tout workplace CSA programs
- on June 6, 2014
Lawrence Memorial Hospital employee LuAnn Baumchen takes the elevator from the third floor where she works as an educator for the Maternal/Child Department down to the atrium on the first floor. That’s all the farther she needs to travel to pick up a bagful of fresh produce.
Baumchen is among 50 people who subscribe to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that is offered through her workplace.
“It’s a great way to get local food in a convenient way and to learn to cook new things,” she said. Baumchen said she hadn’t tried collard greens or fennel until getting them through the CSA. She’s also become a big fan of kale and often makes kale chips for her family and friends.
Not only does she participate in a workplace CSA, but her husband, Paul, does too. He works for the City of Lawrence, which also offers one.
“We think it’s a great employee benefit,” LuAnn Baumchen said. “The quality of food is outstanding and we really like supporting local growers.” Baumchen spoke so highly about her workplace CSA program that her sister Sarah Meinsershagen, who works in human resources at Computerized Assessment and Learning in Lawrence, decided to begin offering one to its employees.
Meinsershagen said the company has about 50 employees and 10 signed up for the CSA, including her. She said it has given employees something to talk about besides work. Meinsershagen said the employees have diverse backgrounds, so they have fun swapping recipes. For example, some of the employees are from India and have shared how they use vegetables, like kohlrabi. “It has been a great bonding and learning experience,” she said.
A Community Supported Agriculture program, commonly called CSA, is a subscription for local food. Consumers subscribe to a CSA by registering and paying in advance for a weekly allotment of seasonal fruits and vegetables that are grown locally and then delivered to a location in the community like The Community Mercantile or Moon on the Meadow farm. However, if your job offers a CSA program, the goods can be delivered directly to your workplace.
“Hosting a CSA distribution site at your company is a great way to make it convenient for your employees to access the produce they need to move toward a healthier lifestyle,” said Bob Lominska, owner of Hoyland Farm, who offers a CSA program in partnership with other farms.
Other workplaces in Douglas County offer a CSA program, including KU Endowment, the World Company, and Dr. Van Blaricum and Newkirk Dental Office. That’s because there are so many benefits:
• Health — Research has shown that people who enroll in a CSA program are likely to eat more fruits and vegetables. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect on blood sugar. “We know that healthy employees are happier and more productive,” said Chris Tilden, director of Community Health at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
• Time — Having fresh fruits and vegetables delivered directly to the worksite is convenient. It can mean fewer trips to the grocery store, less hassle and less fuel.
• Community — Involvement in a CSA program creates a sense of community as you learn where, how and when local products are grown and harvested. Supporting a local farmer puts three times more money back into the local economy than if you buy from a grocery store chain.
• Camaraderie — Co-workers and farmers can share recipes and suggestions for learning about and using fresh produce.
With all of these benefits, a group of local health and food organizations would like to see more workplaces offer CSA programs, so they’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to offer one. It’s called the CSA Toolkit and it includes employee surveys, tips about recruiting farmers, space and materials needed to offer one, and how to best communicate with employees. The 16-page CSA Toolkit was developed by the Health Department in collaboration with LiveWell Lawrence, WorkWell Lawrence and the Douglas County Food Policy Council.
Tilden, of the Health Department, said the CSA Toolkit is a template for companies that would like to provide a CSA program and it is based on experience from local agencies and farms. “We believe CSAs are well worth the investment. They encourage employee interaction, boost employee health and wellness, and support the local economy and environment,” he said.
The CSA Toolkit is available at the Health Department’s website ldchealth.org.