Companies Increasingly Serving Up Nutrition Programs for Employees

In 2008, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced that 62% of Canadian adults were either overweight or obese.

The Conference Board of Canada offered a survey for Canadian organizations in an effort to measure the effectiveness and worth of nutritional programs in the workplace. Two-thirds of organizations who responded say they serve up nutrition programs for employees, but less than half measured the program on employees and few were aware of what their initiatives eat up.

Organizations average around $5,000 annually on workplace nutrition program, but expenditures range from zero to $50,000. Private sector organizations are more likely to offer these programs and measure effectiveness. And most of these nutrition programs have been implemented within the last five years.

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“Employers have a role to play in supporting their employees on this very sensitive matter,” says 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.”

In a survey conducted by The Conference Board of Canada in December 2012, Leadership and Human Resources Executive Networks reported that employers support healthy nutrition by providing healthy food options, education, health and nutrition counseling and company-wide wellness challenges.

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Unhealthy eating is a severe problem in developed nations. People are waiting to see how big companies and government will react to this growing epidemic.

Countries such as Denmark have introduced taxes on “unhealthy” food, and recently Ontario Medical Associated called for the province to combat obesity with a tax of their own. Taxing less than nutritious food and beverages was the topic of discussion during the Health Care Leader’s Debate on May 22 in Edmonton. While some believe that implementing taxes will reduce consumption and raise revenue to fund health care, others believe that restrictions and interference will hinder people’s food choices and that education would be more effective.

The Conference Board of Canada offers a publication called Nutrition in the Workplace that offers case studies of Telus, WorkSafeBc, Loblaw, Eli Lilly Canada, Canadian Pacific, Total E & P and the City of Brandon. The publication is available at the conference board e-library.

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