The PartnerSHIP is working to decrease obesity rates and reduce the number of people who use commercial tobacco or are exposed to secondhand smoke in Winona County.
Thanks to the PartnerSHIP and community partners, more students are walking to school thanks to “Safe Routes to School” and enjoying additional physical activity both during and outside the school day. More schools are supporting “Farm to School” and other healthy eating opportunities. Employers are participating in the Winona County Worksite Wellness Collaborative and are working to offer more comprehensive workplace wellness strategies to improve workers’ health and productivity. The local health care facility is providing services and referrals that its patients need to eat healthier, get more physical activity and stop smoking. Winona County communities are supporting tobacco-free living, healthy eating and active living efforts. Child care facilities are increasing access to healthier food and physical activity for children in their care, and are supporting breastfeeding moms.
See more success stories below.
- Maps Promote Walking Among Refugee and Immigrant Populations
The Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) strives to increase opportunities for physical activity. In February, 2018 Project FINE received SHIP funds to promote walking among refugee and immigrant populations. The project included an assessment to identify barriers to walking in neighborhoods where Project FINE clients live, followed by the development of a series of guides with a map of 1 and 2-mile walking routes in these areas.
To identify the barriers to walking, Project FINE staff spoke with 20 individuals in the Winona and Goodview area. 85% of respondents do not walk or exercise on a regular basis. The most common reasons for not walking for exercise were: lack of infrastructure (sidewalks, crosswalks), unfamiliarity with the neighborhood or not knowing where to go and lack of motivation to exercise. Participants were also asked where they would like to walk if it were safer. The most common answers were in their neighborhood – in this case, Maplewood Townhomes, and Hidden Valley and Lake Village trailer courts.
Survey findings were used to create walking guides for four areas: Maplewood Townhomes, Hidden Valley, Goodview (Lake Village) and Central Winona. The brochures were translated into Hmong and Spanish and were made available in the neighborhoods and at several community events. An estimated 200 families received the walking routes information.
“It’s very helpful to know how far I have walked,” said one person who has been using the walking guides. “The maps encourage me to walk more often,” said another user.
- Teaching and Learning Through Movement
Exercise feeds the brain and aids in all areas of executive functioning, including concentration, memory, and mood. Being active is especially important for our youth; many studies have shown that kids who are active are healthier and do better in school.
The Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) strives to make being active a way of life for communities. On September 26, 2018 Winona County PartnerSHIP hosted a free training at Ridgeway Community School for teachers and others who spend time with kids in the classroom. Seventeen people attended from Ridgeway Community School, St. Charles Elementary School, Winona State University and Saint Mary’s University.
The interactive training covered the importance of providing brain breaks and energizing activities as an intentional “reset” for kids. Content also included best practices and free or low-cost resources to help incorporate more activity in the classroom. One example is to make a classroom kinesthetic so kids can learn through movement. This could include standing desks or seats that allow students to move while seated.
“The training was awesome. I got many wonderful hands-on activities to get my busy fourth graders moving through our day,” said Erika Goldsmith, St. Charles Elementary School.
“I added a few more tools in my teaching today. It was 2.5 hours of fun and real-life quick hitters that anyone can use,” said Scott Kobs, St. Charles Elementary School.
- “The more they burn the better they learn”
Did you know that children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day? Physical activity is critical for kids. It can improve attendance, grades, cognitive abilities, memory and focus. According to the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey, only 24 percent of males and 22 percent of females in fifth grade in Winona County met this recommendation over a seven-day time period.
The Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) strives to increase opportunities for physical activity. On Thursday, May 10, 2018 SHIP hosted a free training at Ridgeway Community School for teachers and other staff that have recess, classroom, before and after school, and summer program responsibilities. Five staff from Ridgeway Community School and two staff from St. Charles Elementary School attended the three-hour training to learn how to expand options for physical activity before, during, and after school. The interactive training included lively discussion on best practices to provide ultimate opportunities for physical activity, sharing of successes and opportunities for improvement, and active demonstration of free resources.
“I want to inspire kids to find activity that they love enough to sustain as an adult,” said trainer Mary Thissen-Milder, PhD from the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education. “Kids do what they enjoy. They choose things they feel safe and confident doing – where no one’s making fun of you.”
“It’s exciting at this school that we have such a push for movement,” stated Mary Lee Eischen from Ridgeway Community School. “At Ridgeway Community School we encourage our students to move and have fun. It encourages wellness through all of life and helps students with their academic focus.”
SHIP will host a second free training on Wednesday, Sept. 26, from 12:30- 3:30 p.m. at Ridgeway Community School on how to incorporate physical activity directly in the classroom.
Register at: https://winonahealth.wufoo.com/forms/ship-active-schools-training/. Registration is limited to 25 people. Attendees will receive 3 CEUs upon completion of the class. Compensation is available to cover substitute teachers if needed during a trainee’s absence.
- Outdoor Activity Center at Riverway Learning Community
Riverway Learning Community became a SHIP partner in the Spring of 2017. Upon completing their School Health Index they identified the need to increase opportunities for physical activity offered during the school day. Previously the PE equipment was located in several different locations (off campus storage, locked trailer, gym storage closet) and were relatively difficult to access, thereby reducing their use. SHIP funds were used to offset the cost of a shed, now known as the OAC (Outdoor Activity Center). The shed is helping increase access to physical activity items for teachers to use with students.
“Everyone is so excited about the new Outdoor Activity Center here. It is going to really increase access to equipment and, in turn, increase physical activity. We are putting in place some partnerships with WSU, St. Mary’s, the YMCA and dance residency to help support that.”
– Patrick Sheedy, Primary Leader of Teaching and Learning, Riverway Learning Community Charter School
- Adult Weight Management
Healthy Fit is a 14-week program led by a Winona Health registered dietitian that features information from exercise and behavioral health specialists to help participants with all aspects of weight management. The first community cohort began in November 2015 and finished in February 2016. Seven individuals completed the program with an average weight loss of 6.5 percent. A second community group began in April with a total of 24 people enrolled.
SHIP dollars contributed to the dietitian and providers’ education, a body composition machine, educational materials for participants and marketing of the program.
“I thoroughly enjoyed this class and really looked forward to attending every week. Focusing on a change of behavior rather than a ‘diet’ was the key. I know all of us knew what we should eat, it was the ‘why’ we do what we do and what we need to change. And having a ‘buddy’ to talk and share with was a major key also.”
– Program Participant
- Enhancing Active Living
In the summer of 2016, the City of Winona received a SHIP mini-grant to support active living and bicycle infrastructure in our community. A Bike Fixtation stand was installed at the foot of the popular Holzinger Trails System.
This project contributes to the growing active living movement by providing citizens and guests in our community with the ability to address simple DIY (do it yourself) bike repair. The City of Winona Park and Recreation Department has taken ownership of the station, by committing to keep up its maintenance and promote this free new resource.
- GR8 Kids
GR8 Kids is an eight-week health and wellness program for 4th grade students. The curriculum content is based on 12345 Fit-Tastic and is reinforced through the use of wellness journals to track healthy activities. Points are awarded for consumption of fruits, vegetables, and water, acts of kindness and each 30-minute session of physical activity they engage in. In order to encourage family fitness, children receive an additional point for each family member who engages in physical activity with them. Piloted in St. Stanislaus Elementary School with 40 students, and expanding to reach another 70 students at Jefferson Elementary STEM School, GR8 Kids helps improve the overall quality of life for young individuals in our community, empowering them to be involved in making their own healthy choices. SHIP supported this program by providing synthetic food models for nutrition instruction, posters, and volunteer training. SHIP also funded pediatric prescription pads that were used at Winona Health with the same 12345 Fit-Tastic health message.
- SHIP Partner Makes A Big Splash
Front Porch Management is making a big splash as a new partner of the Winona County PartnerSHIP (SHIP – Statewide Health Improvement Partnership) this year. SHIP funds were used for supplies to help launch a community-based agriculture project at Prairie Island Campground this summer, featuring more than 20 plots for campers and community members to plant at no cost. A produce donation policy was created so that extra produce would be offered to the Winona Volunteer Services food shelf.
SHIP will also fund signs in English, Hmong and Spanish, to be placed by the garden, to welcome guests, thank them for not using tobacco products in the area and inform them of the campground’s mission “to promote healthy eating, serve as a gateway to outdoor recreation, engage community members with multiple perspectives, provide learning opportunities for youth, and sustain biological diversity.”
The partnership also included ways to encourage campers and community members to be more active. Later in the year, SHIP supported the purchase a bicycle fix-station and a 19-bicycle fleet, complete with trikes for older adults, two-bike trailers to transport young children and smaller bikes for kids. The City of Winona provided bike racks. The fleet became available just in time for Boats and Bluegrass music festival, and the campground sold out for the entire weekend. A policy was implemented to waive the rental fee for low-income populations.
“The SHIP funds allowed us as new managers to transform how people engage with Prairie Island Campground from the first day we opened. The community garden became a central gathering space for various events related to the arts, recreation, health, and community,” said Anne Conway, co-owner of Front Porch Management.
Throughout the summer, the garden left an impression on thousands of visitors who entered the campground and guests for the eight Campfire Concert Series events. The connection campers felt to this effort shows in the donations received for the painting of a mural, by high school students and resident artist Celeste Sullivan. A painted banner stating, “We are all one,” serves as the backdrop to the space.
- Healthy on-the-go is new at Winona Hy-Vee
According to a 2015 survey commissioned by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, 66 percent of Minnesotans said that they shop at least once a week at a traditional grocery store. That puts grocery stores in an ideal position to promote health and well-being by encouraging nutritious choices.
Winona Hy-Vee received funding from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) to purchase display items to support healthy choices. Among the changes at the store, 25 recipe card holders have been placed in aisles next to central ingredients, which helps customers who are seeking guidance on how to shop for and cook healthy foods. Two checkout area healthy snack stands were also added to help nudge customers to select more nutritious options.
“Items are moving pretty steadily off of the healthy snack stands! I am very happy with the sales and response from customers,” said Jennifer Holden, Winona Hy-Vee Dietitian. “We sold 530 healthy to-go items in five weeks, averaging around $100 in sales per week.”
- Goodview Farmers Market Celebrates Successful Season
The Goodview Farmers Market had multiple things to celebrate as it wrapped up its second season on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.
Among the successes, the market included 27 vendors this season, over four times the number of vendors from last season. Each week the market welcomed hundreds of customers, many of which biked to the location. Funding from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) provided a bike rack to encourage more people to actively commute to the market.
The Power of Produce (PoP) Club was a free new program – also funded by SHIP – offered to children ages 4 through 12. Kids received a $2 token once per market to spend on fresh, locally grown produce. There were 327 kids registered for the PoP Club, and accounted for 1,054 of the market visits this season. The goal of the PoP Club is to empower children to make healthy choices when selecting food to eat. The program offers a chance for children to explore the farmers market and learn about the different varieties of fruits and vegetables, while also learning about how food is grown, by connecting them with local farmers.
Thanks to start up funds from SHIP, the next market season will feature a new website for the Goodview Farmers Market, and will add Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and credit card processing capability to reach a more diverse audience.
Market customers shared the following appreciative comments:
“I love that we have this market in Goodview”
“The Power of Produce Club really helps our family, and my kids get excited about veggies.”
“The market is a great community addition to Goodview. Thank you!”
- Classroom in the Cafeteria for Winona Area Public Schools
Funding from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) supported the “Classroom in the Cafeteria” project at Winona Area Public Schools in the fall of 2018. A Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard was completed for each school in the district to assess and implement evidence-based strategies that make the healthy choice the easy choice.
The project entailed providing visual education through attractive signage in the cafeteria to help students understand the importance of eating a variety of foods. The signs are strategically placed for students to read and look at while they are waiting in line for food or eating their meal in the cafeteria. Approximately 2,600 students are exposed to the educational content daily.
Signage includes images and tips to focus on fruits, jump start your day with breakfast, fuel your body from head to toe, catch a rainbow of colorful foods every day, go lean with protein, and find your balance between food and fun.
“The new signs in the cafeteria brighten up our lunch room and show us how to eat healthy,” said a student.
“I really appreciate the positive nutrition message our cafeteria is spreading. The new signs and posters bring us a sense of community and togetherness!” said a teacher.
- Enhancing Farmers Market Engagement
In an effort to increase engagement between refugee and immigrant populations and local farmers markets, funds from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) were granted to Project FINE to develop a brochure with information about farmers markets and create a guide of unique produce found at area markets.
Project FINE is a local non-profit that helps newcomers integrate into the community.
The brochure included reasons to shop at a farmers market and the three market locations in Winona County. The brochure was translated into Spanish and Hmong and distributed to 120 families through home visits and outreach at local farmers markets and community events.
The produce guide focused on unfamiliar vegetables that are commonly sold by diverse growers. Titled “How Do I Cook That? A Guide to Unique Produce at the Farmers Market,” the guide highlights eight different items that are often sold at the market, including bitter melon, Thai basil, opo squash and Chinese eggplant. Each has a description of the taste, uses and what to look for when purchasing the produce, as well as a recipe.
The guide was translated into Spanish and Hmong and distributed to local farmers markets. Guides were also distributed to 70 refugee and immigrant families via home visits and community events.
The produce guide is spreading to other counties as well. SHIP partner Ramsey County intends to share the guide with market managers from its Farmers Market Collaborative, as well as WIC staff to provide to families when also issuing farmers market vouchers.
- Riverway Learning Community Promotes Healthy Eating and Physical Activity
Students at Riverway Learning Community in Winona helped pave the way for healthier lunch options at the school.
Riverway Learning Community received funding from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership to conduct taste tests and enhance its physical education classes with new equipment this past spring.
Students studied lunch waste at the school and identified which foods were thrown away most often. Proposed new items, including chicken Caesar wraps, were then sampled by students before being incorporated into the menu. The school cafeteria serves an average of 85 students and 10 staff daily.
“It was great to receive funding for our food service program, allowing us to get creative with a few new entrees. The students loved participating in the selection and being able to critique the samples,” said Lindsay Krage, School Nutrition Leader.
Physical education equipment included strength training and balance items, as well as an early childhood activity curriculum.
Riverway Learning Community contributed an additional $678 in matching funds and in-kind labor for the wellness initiatives supported by SHIP.
- Seed Bank and Library – A Unique Partnership in Winona
The City of Winona Parks and Recreation Department and Winona State University are partnering on the first Seed Bank and Library to take root in southern Minnesota as well as the first Seed Bank and Library within all of the Minnesota State Colleges and University system.
The numbers from the first twelve months of the effort are impressive:
– 350 users
– 45 varieties and species of seeds
– 165 attendees at two workshops featuring seed saving demonstrations and hands on activities
– 500 volunteer hours, equating to an economic value of $13,790
– 3,000 plant starters given away at three outreach events
– 300 cookbooks in English and Spanish given away
– 500 individuals reached through 7 lectures, 2 tabling events, 2 podcasts and 1 facilitated discussion around food equity and insecurity, biodiversity, and seed saving
The project received funding from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership and leveraged funding from personal donations, the American Association of University Women and Bluff Country Co-op’s bean jar program as well as multiple sources within Winona State University including the Green Fee, Student Senate, and a WSU Foundation campaign for a total budget of almost $15,000. The project also received hundreds of dollars of resource donations from Seed Saver’s Exchange, Nature and Nurture Seeds, Renee’s Garden Seeds, Fedco Seeds, and Collective Eye Films.
The main branch of WSU Seed Bank and Library is located at the East Recreation Center, which is in a lower income neighborhood and is predominately used by those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. A smaller Seed Bank and Library is housed in the Winona State University campus food pantry.
“At every event we had I met people who shared innovative ways to grow their own food,” said WSU Seed Bank & Library founder Alison Bettin. “In our seed saving workshops and outreach events we talked about container gardening; it’s a good place to start, and ideal if you don’t have a lot of land to grow produce. Growing their own food empowers people to take back a part of their life they haven’t paid as much attention to.”
Thanks to the success of this work in Winona, a community member in Rochester was inspired to partner with Rochester Public Library to start a Seed Library of their own.
To learn more about what is happening at the WSU Seed Bank & Library follow them on Facebook @wsuseedbanklibrary.
- Fresh Funds Program – A New Way to Provide Nutrition
Every year between December and April, the Winona Volunteer Services food shelf experiences a decline in fresh produce available for their clients.
To help alleviate that challenge, Winona County PartnerSHIP, Winona Hy-Vee and Winona Volunteer Services partnered to introduce a program called “Hy-Vee Fresh Funds” to help increase access to fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables for local food shelf clients.
When shopping at the Winona Hy-Vee during the month of March, which is National Nutrition Month, shoppers were invited by cashiers at the checkout lane to add $1, $5, $10 or more dollars to their grocery bill. The amount donated was deposited directly into a separate account for Winona Volunteer Services to purchase fresh food for food shelf clients.
A total of $454.45 was raised through 192 transactions, which was used to buy 520 pounds of fresh produce, including cauliflower, cucumbers, potatoes and Georgia peaches.
“All of the produce from Hy-Vee was extremely fresh. The volunteers are delighted to see a variety of produce available to our shoppers, especially having more expensive items like peaches,” said Sandra Burke, Winona Volunteer Services Executive Director.
“We are proud to be able to partner with our community to help provide fresh, nutritious foods for all,” said Jennifer Holden, Winona Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian.
The Hy-Vee Fresh Funds program was supported by the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), which helped fund store signs, brochures and cashier stickers to prompt donations.
- Diabetes Group Education in Spanish
Being diagnosed with diabetes can be scary and trying to manage the condition can feel daunting.
To help support people living with diabetes, the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), Winona Health, and Project FINE partnered on a Diabetes Group Education pilot program that was interpreted in Spanish. Two classes were offered to eight Spanish-speaking individuals living with diabetes and five family members or friends. Participants received recipes, a food plan guide, and a basic guide to diabetes.
Topics included what diabetes is, how to treat or manage it, basic nutrition information, blood sugar targets, how to prevent complications from high or low blood sugar, how diabetes changes over time, and how to take diabetes medication safely.
Each class began with a healthy meal and included education on appropriate portion sizes. During the break, movement was incorporated.
The program was taught by Theresa Hoyles, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Winona Health. “The class provided basic information to help manage diabetes. We gave participants the knowledge and skills to live the longest, healthiest life possible, and we worked with them to find out what would work with their lifestyle,” said Hoyles.
Since taking the class, 100 percent of respondents indicated their knowledge about diabetes had increased either slightly (3 people) or increased greatly (4 people). In addition, 57 percent of respondents said they are more active following the class; 86 percent of respondents are making healthier food choices, and 100 percent of respondents would recommend this class to a friend with diabetes.
“Sometimes it’s hard to do things that are good for you, and classes like this one motivate me to do them,” said one participant.
“I think the classes are very interesting, especially because it taught me how we should eat and what to do if my blood sugar is high or low. I learned good exercises. Thank you, I hope these classes will be repeated again in the future,” said another participant.
- New SHIP Partner Gets Their Hands Dirty – Literally!
Front Porch Management and Winona County PartnerSHIP (SHIP) are partnering to bring healthier foods and enhanced opportunities for physical activity to the area.
Prairie Island Campground serves approximately 2,000 people per month, which new management expects to increase thanks to additional attractions added this year. Front Porch Management began a community garden at Prairie Island Campground with 21 plots available to use for the season at no cost to campers or community members. The garden was developed as a way to bring healthy fresh foods to community members and guests of the campground, build community awareness of the importance of healthy foods and provide learning opportunities for area students in grades K-12. SHIP partner, Riverway Learning Community, has had three, 2-hour work sessions to help prepare the garden for planting. Three of the garden plots will be grown for community consumption. Extra produce will be shared with short term campers, community members, and with the Winona Volunteer Services food shelf.
“We want to start small and send a message to the community – we are building a culture here,” said Anne Conway, co-owner of Front Porch Management. “We are offering fun and safe ways to enjoy the Prairie Island community.”
Other plans include a pollinator garden and rental of paddling equipment including canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards in partnership with Winona State University. Additional plans for the campground include a bicycle rack, bicycle fix-station, bicycle fleet, and signage in other languages to be more inclusive.
- Winona community learns about the dangers of e-cigarettes for youth
Minnesota teens are using e-cigarettes and vapes at alarming rates, exposing themselves to the harms of nicotine and risking addition.
Thirty-two members of the Winona community gathered on Oct, 22 to learn about the dangers of these products for teens and what communities can do to help reduce their use.
Liz Heimer, a Tobacco Specialist with the American Lung Association, led the presentation, which introduced the newest and most innovative tobacco products and technologies marketed at youth. Attendees held each of the tobacco products and concealing items as part of the learning process. The presentation was hosted by Winona County PartnerSHIP, the local Statewide Health Improvement Partnership grantee.
Tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease. It is also the only legal consumer product on the market that, if used as intended, will kill half of its long-term users. Nearly 90 percent of lifelong smokers start before the age of 18.
Unfortunately, Minnesota youth tobacco use has increased for the first time in 17 years, due in part to new and innovative products, like e-cigarettes. Youth are targeted with appealing packaging, attractive advertising, flavored products, affordable prices, and comfortable consumption due to chemicals that remove the harshness of smoking. Nicotine is not only highly addictive, it has been shown to harm adolescent brain development, and may prime the teen brain for future addiction to tobacco and other substances.
“I never realized how big of a problem that this actually was, especially the JUUL, with kids. Great educational experience,” said one attendee.
“I loved seeing the actual products and the products available that can ‘hide’ the vaping products,” said another attendee.
The recorded presentation can be viewed at http://winonacountypartnership.com/tobacco-free-living/
- SHIP and the American Lung Association (ALA) Influence Smoke-Free Campuses
In an effort to help reduce tobacco use, Live Well Winona worked with their landlord and surrounding tenants at Huff Center in Winona to create a tobacco-free zone that spans half of a city block. Inspired by a presentation given by Erin Simmons of ALA, staff learned about the Twin Cities based non-profit company, ANSR of Minnesota. Through this connection they were able to follow the proper steps to make a seamless transition to a tobacco-free campus. ANSR provided the resources and assisted in supplying the signage needed.
Inspired by this positive change at the Huff Center campus, Winona Volunteer Services decided to make their campus a Tobacco-Free Zone as well. Many thanks to SHIP, ALA and ANSR for helping improve our community.
- Going Tobacco-Free
Evidence-based workplace activities support policy and systems changes to promote healthier work environments. J.R. Watkins, a PartnerSHIP worksite partner, began an Employee Wellness Initiative encouraging healthy behaviors for all employees through policy, systems and environmental changes. Wanting to reduce health care costs, the company decided to offer a completely tobacco-free campus. With technical assistance and mini-grant funding from the PartnerSHIP, Watkins provided cessation program information for those interested in quitting, posted Tobacco-free Workplace signs on company grounds and implemented the policy change effective September 1, 2015.
Between January 1, 2016 and September 23, 2016, worksite partners reached over 1,200 employees with their Tobacco-Free Environments and nearly 700 employees with their Tobacco Cessation Support.
PartnerSHIP tobacco-free living activities support efforts to create smoke-free housing policies that reduce community members’ exposure to secondhand smoke and point-of-sale policies that reduce youth access to tobacco products. An estimated 57 residents were impacted by smoke-free housing activities in multi-unit housing facilities between January 1, 2016 and September 23, 2016.
- HBCI Healthy Eating
In November 2017, HBC made the decision to remove the vending machines from our main office in favor of an in-house break room that would allow for more and healthier options to be made available to our staff and visitors during break and meal times.
Prior to the transition, there was one full size refrigerator for staff that brought their lunches or snacks from home, and 2 vending machines containing typical items such as soda, chips, cookies and candy. The closest option to a meal was “cup of noodles”.
The new “Healthy by Choice Pantry” contains 2 refrigerators for perishable items and beverages and 2 racks for items not needing to be kept cold. Food options made available in the Pantry refrigerators include string cheese, yogurt, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs, Lunchables, and cheese and nut snack packs. We also stock frozen meals in the freezer. As the weather warms, we plan to add frozen yogurt and other like snacks. We added options for beverages such as milk, V8, bottled water, and fruit juice. We were also able to make available fresh fruit, raisins, popcorn, granola bars, breakfast bars, and more. The refrigerator for staff to bring food from home was also retained.
We recognized that in this transition, we would not get buy-in from the staff if we removed all the items that were previously available under the old system. We did keep some of the less healthy options knowing that people would not always make the healthy choice, but at least now, they would have the option. We did, however, switch from full size candy bars to the fun size, so an employee could have a little sweet without feeling compelled to finish a whole bar.
Payment for items in the Pantry is on the honor system and so far, it has been successful and is self-sustaining. A cash box is available with a small amount of cash so that employees can make change when necessary. The box is emptied of most of the revenue each evening, leaving just a small amount of money so the Pantry always open for business. Pricing for items has been made very generic so that we don’t have to re-price everything each time we add a new option.
Each week, the pantry is inventoried and restocked, removing any of the perishable foods that have passed their prime and replenishing items that have sold.
In January, we sent out a survey to see how the HBC Pantry was being received. We have approximately 55 employees at our main office location and we received 25 responses. On a scale of 1-5, we were rated at a 4 or better by most of the respondents. When asked if respondents preferred the old vending options or the new Pantry, the Pantry was the clear winner.
We hope to continue to grow and evolve the program, taking into consideration feedback we receive and new ideas and opportunities that come along.
Feedback received from the survey:
“Best idea ever, love the Pantry and I buy something at least 3x a week if not more.”
“…the selection is great; thanks for the work and I hope it is sustainable.”