Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative kicks off “Workplace Wellness” Program

By March 12, 2012General Interest

As local physicians, Drs. Christoph Diasio and Bill Stewart administer to the health of area children. This week, they join with with Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative to issue a unique Workplace Wellness challenge – fresh fruits and vegetables as a tangible health benefit.

“Pediatricians are on the front line of the obesity epidemic in America, says Dr. Diasio. “We work hard every day to help our families make healthy choices.”

Drs. Diasio and Stewart are pediatricians at Sandhills Pediatrics, a busy medical practice with offices in Southern Pines, Seven Lakes and Raeford. For the third season, this medical practice is leading by example. By paying for Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative biweekly Produce Box subscriptions for their entire 50+ staff, the partners at Sandhills Pediatrics practice what they preach.

“When we heard of SF2T, it sounded like a wonderful opportunity to do something positive for our employees and our community, ” says Dr. Diasio. “We tell our patients to eat more fruits and veggies and less processed foods every single day- we look at this as a way to say that we are walking the walk! ”

Adds Dr. Stewart, “Sandhills Pediatrics has always sought to be a good corporate citizen, and we jumped at this opportunity to keep more money in the local economy and participate in this terrific project.”

Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative, a community-owned enterprise centered around fresh local food, is kicking off its Workplace Wellness outreach this week with a direct challenge at the third annual Members Potluck this Saturday. Drs. Diasio, Stewart and “Sandhills Ped” are joining the three-year-old Cooperative in reaching out to businesses and issuing a Workplace Challenge: ” Enrich your business and employee health with Produce Box subscriptions.”

The Co-op offers several ways to do this: As a direct “Employee Wellness” benefit of weekly or biweekly boxes as Sandhills Pediatrics does, or by subsidizing the $25 membership fee for employees, and/or by allowing pay as you eat payroll deduction payments for employees purchasing Produce box subscriptions.

Sandhills Pediatrics first decided to give employees the tangible benefit of an every-other-week box of fresh local fruits and vegetables in 2010. “When we thought about what we pay as a small business to provide health insurance, paying a relatively small amount to promote healthy nutrition for our staff was a “no-brainer”,” says Dr. Diasio. “If we lower our long-term health insurance costs there could be a positive financial return on investment. Sandhills Pediatrics treats childhood obesity every single day and was really proud to encourage healthy eating for our staff.”

Leading by example shows genuine commitment and leadership, as only some 19 percent of North Carolina residents eat the recommended five or more vegetables a day. North Carolina adults rank 14th highest in the nation for obesity and 10th highest in the nation for hypertension, according to the 2011 study “F is for Fat:” Roxanne Leopper, MS, First Health Community Health Services, notes: “Adults spend a good portion of their day at work. This provides worksites with an opportunity to offer simple, low-cost workplace wellness initiatives that can have a large impact on employee health.”

Patrick Coughlin, president, Moore County Chamber of Commerce, agrees: “Company profitability and longevity are directly related to employee health.” And a 2010 analysis of literature showed that every dollar invested into workplace wellness returned about $6 in savings for the company both directly in reduced employee medical costs, and indirectly through greater productivity, less absenteeism – a six hundred percent return.

Beyond the tangible economic benefits, the Cooperative Produce Boxes, which are delivered directly to Sandhills Pediatrics offices, generate uplift and excitement among employees on “Box Day. ”

“Of all the employee benefits we have provided, nothing has been as popular with our employees as the Farm to Table program! There is a buzz of excitement all over the office every delivery day. It’s like Christmas!” says Dr. Diasio. “It is a wonderful experience to have a box of fresh fruits and veggies to learn to cook new, and healthy foods! But honestly, it is mainly a really fun program!”

Sandhills Farm to Table delivery manager Steve Brock concurs: “Their people were really excited, especially when they saw what was inside the box. And it never faded. They grabbed the boxes so fast! Their expectations seemed to be more than fulfilled in every way. ”

Ask your employer to take the Workplace Wellness Challenge this season. Send inquiries to to learn more.

“Be a great corporate citizen and consider this employee benefit,” urges Diasio. “Try it out, and we bet your staff will love it!”

Anyone interested learning more about the Co-op is invited to the website at