Two-thirds of employers offer nutrition programs: Conference Board

Healthy food options, company-wide wellness challenges popular
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 05/14/2013

Two-thirds of Canadian organizations offer nutrition programs, according to a survey by the Conference Board of Canada.

Obesity is perhaps the highest-profile issue affecting the health of Canadians. In 2008, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported that one-quarter of Canadian adults were obese. In all, 62 per cent of adults were either overweight or obese.

“Employers have a role to play in supporting their employees on this very sensitive matter,” said Louise Chénier, research associate. “Obesity is one of the most important risk factors for many chronic illnesses and conditions. Nutrition programs are a cost-effective way for employers to help employees have healthier diets, which lowers the risk of developing chronic diseases.”

Employers support healthy nutrition in four main ways, by providing: healthy food options, education, health and nutrition counselling, and company-wide wellness challenges, found the survey.

Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of employers that responded to the survey reported that their organization actively supports healthy nutrition in the workplace and ensures that healthy food options are available to employees. Most of these programs had been implemented within the last five years.

The most common initiatives were healthy selections for the on-site cafeteria (52 per cent) and healthy options for on-site catered meetings (50 per cent). Healthy food selections for on-site vending machines are much less common among respondents, which can be a challenge for shift workers.

Yet, only 41 per cent of organizations with nutrition-related initiatives in their workplaces measure the impact, usually by participation and satisfaction of employees.

And just one-third of respondents were able to provide overall costs of their workplace nutrition programs. These initiatives typically accounted for 10 per cent to 30 per cent of an organization’s overall wellness budget. Most commonly, organizations spent $5,000 annually, but the expenditures ranged from zero to $50,000 per year.

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