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Crow Wing Energized: Healthy food options at work can begin with as little as $100

Consolidated Telecommunications Co. employees Sarah Larson (left) and Holly Wiebolt showcase the healthy food options they have at work. (Submitted photo)

For Consolidated Telecommunications Company in Brainerd/Baxter, employee health and wellness are a top priority. So much so, that a wellness committee was formed in 2008 to motivate employees to take responsibility for their own health, wellness, and lifestyle choices at work, at home and at play. Some activities they've implemented include health and fitness challenges, collections for the community, and most recently, Healthy Vending Options.

The Healthy Vending Initiative began as a way to provide affordable, healthy snack options for employees. The program began in May and utilizes existing refrigerator space in both their Brainerd and Baxter offices. One employee from each location manages the program and they are continually adding or removing items based on employee feedback.

The program began with about $100 worth of product at each office location, each item ranging from $.50 to $2, and utilizes the "on your honor" pay method. When new products are added, an email gets sent to employees with an updated product list and requests for new vending ideas.

In working with Crow Wing Energized, CTC found some resources as to what items they could use for Healthy Vending options. They looked for easy options that were low in calories, fat, sugar, and salt - and organic when possible. Initially, they started with easy to grab snacks such as fruits and vegetables that last longer than one week. Other items including yogurt, hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, bottled water, pretzels, etc., were added as well.

So far this program has been a great success and has been able to sustain financially. However, they've learned that they need to take account for food expiration dates and potential spoilage before purchasing some items. On the plus side, any profits generated are donated to United Way's summer lunch program "Operation Sandwich."

This has been a fantastic initiative and CTC is excited to continue to offer Healthy Vending to their employees in the future.

Paulette Thoennes is Consolidated Telecommunications Co. account manager and Crow Wing Energized Workplace Wellness Goal Group member.

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