By Leslie Luna Staff Writer

Think for a moment about your typical workday. Do you skip breakfast? Feel tired throughout the day? Rarely get away from your desk for lunch? Find yourself calling in sick frequently?

It’s no surprise the sphere of wellness has changed significantly in recent years as organizations take notice of the impact of employee health on productivity and engagement. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, companies that support workplace well-being have a greater percentage of employees at work everyday. One aspect to consider is that employee health carries over into better health behavior that not only impacts the employee but their family as well. Employees may miss less work caring for ill family members as well. Similarly, workplace health programs can reduce presenteeism. The CDC  notes the cost savings of providing a workplace health program can be measured against absenteeism among employees, reduced overtime, and costs to train replacement employees.

Today, many employers are embracing wellness programs and making it part of their work culture. One company that goes above and beyond to promote employee well-being is Scripps Health. The Scripps Wellness program is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Since the program began, Scripps has reduced the number of health risks in their staff year over year, despite the fact that the average working age adult increases their risk each year due to aging and weight gain.

“Typical day at my job is eight hours sitting at a computer manipulating data. When midday comes around, I get to get up from my desk, put on a pair of shorts, go sweat for half an hour, come back , then I can finish my work,” said Adam Earls, senior systems and reporting analyst at Scripps Health. “The successes for me have been many, I dropped 60 pounds, I feel younger. I feel much better.”

As a result of being able to manage the health risks in their employee population, Scripps has seen cost savings in the form of direct savings and avoided expense for worker’s compensation and their health plan. 

Another company that goes out of its way to promote employee wellbeing is ViaSat. Their wellness program is called Elevate. It was initially a small team focused on providing employees with discounts to local gyms to help encourage fitness. Soon after that, it included bringing a farmer’s market onsite, and then offering yoga, and strength training classes at their  different offices. ViaSat has annual biometric testing at all of their offices around the U.S. and they offer employees incentives on their healthcare premiums for participating in wellness activities. Over 2,500 employees participate in the wellness program. The company has seen the greatest return in reduced benefits costs and improvements in employee health measures.

Daily Harvest Express

A farm stand on wheels, Daily Harvest Express brings fresh, locally grown produce to the workplace.

Food is another component that is at the heart of any wellness program. Carlsbad’s Daily Harvest Express is innovating the way they deliver fresh fruits and veggies to local offices with their mobile farm stand.

“Work productivity and work satisfaction are both interdependent with healthy eating, exercise and enough rest, “ said Sandy Comstock, associate dean of nursing and allied health at MiraCosta College.

Daily Harvest Express was recently awarded a $99,900 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to further improve the health and wellness of individuals and businesses in San Diego County by connecting local farmers with urban consumers. Furthermore, the grant will allow the company to afford a larger facility, add three additional mobile food stands, and increase their cooler space capacity as well as expand delivery routes including stops to support healthy eating education programs. One of the company’s main goals is to support education and awareness of healthier eating habits through speaking engagements, donations and healthy cooking classes. Daily Harvest Express will now be able to expand their reach from 6,400 people currently to 25,000 by increasing farm stand routes from 16 stops to 64 stops within the next year.

“By eating more fruits and vegetables, our corporate clients reduce the risk of obesity, developing chronic heart disease and diabetes,” said Janis Garcia, owner of Daily Harvest Express. “You couldn’t ask for better results.”

Another local business making strides when it comes to sustainable food practices is The Land & Water Company in the heart of the Carlsbad Village. Chef Rob Ruiz is practicing what he preaches by  bringing the very best and freshest food to his restaurant.

He recently came back from London where he was one of 12 recipients recognized for their efforts on ocean conservation. The Blue Marine Foundation and Boat International Magazine  awarded the chef an Ocean Award for his campaign to conserve the vaquita porpoise and to promote the use of shrimp caught without the use of tangling gillnets. Ruiz said “It was a mindblowing experience to be recognized as the number one chef in the world for literacy in sustainability and fishing practices.”

“The benefits for our community to support and build this farm-to-table marketplace are numerous,” said Allison Megan, horticulture professor at Miracosta College. “Ecologically, we reduce the carbon footprint of food by less shipping and food transport. Socially, we support local self reliance and infuse money back into our communities. Financially, creating a robust local food economy often articulates to benefit the consumer  by creating cheaper food over time.”

Ruiz has big plans for 2016 including finishing the vaquita dolphin project and starting succession planting – a method that increases crop availability by making efficient use of space and timing – in his Fallbrook farm. “By April 60-70% of our produce will be hand-picked. We want customers to come and see our produce, and say I’ve never seen this before,” he said. “We have our own herb garden in our backyard, we bake our own bread, we make all our ice cream from scratch. We make everything ourselves, our seafood is already traceable. Our meats are going to be just as traceable, hormone free, and natural. We are stepping it up. As a chef you need to know what you are serving and where it comes from. If you don’t know, you can’t call yourself a chef.”

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