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St. Luke’s CSA for employees revenue hits $1M mark

St. Luke’s University Health Network employees looking to eat healthy have a convenient and bountiful option. The Community Supported Agriculture Program is open to Network employees, spouses and family members whose memberships support participating local farms. In turn, the farms provide members with shares of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

This year, the SLUHN CSA Program has more than 500 members and runs from June to October. All fees collected are paid to the farmers.

“As the Network has grown, so has the CSA program,” said Amy Previato, network director, SLUHN Employee Wellness, Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine. “Over the program’s seven years, it has gone from one farmer serving three locations to eight farmers serving 19 different sites each week. We are proud that in 2020, the program’s all-time revenue has surpassed $1 million dollars.”

Weekly CSA deliveries are made to the 19 sites for the 20-week program (it runs for 12 weeks at Miners Campus). Tables are set up at the sites for weekly distribution. The members receive two weekly reminders to pick up their shares; the emails include farm newsletters and recipes.

“The CSA pickup is a good diversion from the stresses of the day for the members,” Previato said.

“They get excited to pick up their bags. We frequently hear feedback like, ‘This is my favorite day of the week!’ or ‘Every CSA day feels like Christmas.’ There is tremendous enthusiasm and camaraderie.”

The SLUHN CSA Program identifies, interviews and selectively partners with farmers who have the capacity to work within a CSA that’s part of a large health care network.

“We look for farmers who utilize organic growing practices, who are located near the campus or distribution site, and who have the capacity for growth in their business,” she said.

The program offers benefits to all of its key stakeholders.

“According to the CDC, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables daily can help reduce the risk of many leading causes of illness and death, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity,” Previato said.

Previato said St. Luke’s Employee Wellness Program includes an annual health assessment that asks employees about their lifestyles, including things like nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress management and more.

“We use the data to design programs that help our employees and their families maintain and improve their health,” she said.

“One thing we’ve learned is that we have the opportunity to help our employees increase the number of fruits and vegetables they eat. The CSA program promotes convenient access to fresh, local produce each week, making it easy for our employees to make healthy choices.”

Previato said farmers benefit from the network’s support of the local food economy.

“All money generated from the purchase of produce shares is passed directly into the pockets of the local farmers,” she said.

“The St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm also provides CSA shares for the program, in addition to distributing organic produce to all of the SLUHN cafeterias for use in the preparation of patient meals and cafeteria meals served to employees and the community.”

The SLUHN CSA Program has also developed partnerships with soup kitchens and food pantries so that unclaimed shares of fruits and vegetables are donated to them each week.

“This grants food access to some of our neediest and food insecure community members,” Previato said.

The SLUHN CSA program is meeting its goals.

“Our department helps employees maintain and improve their health and health behaviors, and creates and fosters a culture of health within the organization,” Previato said.

“We have seen positive trends in the health risks in our population. We now meet or exceed seven Healthy People 2020 goals, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, poorly controlled diabetes, and tobacco use,” she explained.

“In addition, we have also seen tremendous buy-in from staff, and interest from new employees and medical residents. We enjoy supporting our members through the growing season, sharing recipes and ways to preserve veggies for the winter. ”

St. Luke's CSA produces a bounty of fresh vegetables. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO