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July 23, 2010 > County brings local produce directly to its workforce

County brings local produce directly to its workforce

Submitted By Jim Weston

Starting July 20, Santa Clara County became the first government agency locally to bring farm-fresh fruits and vegetables directly to its workforce through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), the County's latest effort to promote employee wellness.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Ken Yeager called for renewed vigor in promoting employee wellness in his State of the County Address in January. He has long supported connecting employees to CSA.

"I know many employees don't have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables and farm eggs, said Yeager. "I hope this will make it easier for them to plan healthier meals for their families and avoid fast foods."

CSA delivers produce from local farms directly to consumers. The farmer benefits from regular, reliable customers who receive convenient access to high-quality fruits and vegetables. Also, local agricultural land remains intact and there is no need to transport food over long distances.

Santa Clara County's CSA program is voluntary and self-supporting, requiring no funding or subsidies from the County. Each week, employees can order a produce box directly from a local farmer who delivers directly to the County Government Center. Deliveries are convenient for both the farmer and employees, keeping costs down for staff.

Its success could become a model for other local governments striving to improve the health of their workforce. For its first foray into CSA, the County reached out to JP Organics, Salinas, which has set up successful partnerships bringing local produce to students and faculty at San Jose State University, Santa Clara University and Stanford. On the first delivery day, 75 employees received produce boxes. After a pilot period, the County will consider expanding the program.

"Community Supported Agriculture offers a number of possibilities for County employees and residents alike," said Yeager. "I hope other local governments and private businesses follow our lead."

CSA augments existing efforts to promote health to staff. A 2007 proposal by Supervisor Yeager created a directory of local health clubs that offer discounts to County employees. Ongoing blood pressure screenings and monitoring are provided by request and periodic cholesterol and glucose screenings are offered at worksites. In addition to ongoing classes, the County also stages an annual employee wellness fair and a series of regular activity programs such as its "March Into May" walk promotion and its "Step It Up" stair challenge. Later this year, Supervisor Yeager plans to introduce more wellness programs.

"Employee-wellness initiatives increase productivity and can ultimately lower healthcare-related costs," said Yeager. "As an employer, the County makes an important investment by promoting better worker health."

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