Community Stories:

St. Paul - Healthy Eating Challenge

Champions for Change Community Coalition in St. Paul, partnered with the Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund, Alberta Health Services in 2015 to work together on a community based research project.

A team of representatives from this coalition and other community organizations, schools, worksites and interested community members, created an action plan to promote healthy lifestyle choices and environments that support cancer prevention within the community.

The community team focused on promoting healthy eating, and chose to engage schools and home economics classes to learn how to prepare “salads in a jar.” This creative project involves using mason jars to make, store and carry a salad.  When you layer salad ingredients in to a mason jar, you can create a variety of delicious salad options that are ideal for packed lunches at school or work.

This resulted in the County of St. Paul and Elk Point FCSS bringing workshops to 11 worksites and 4 senior’s centers within the community of St. Paul and surrounding area. Over 285 participants attended these interactive presentations facilitated by high school summer students. Over the lunch hour, attendees learned to make a salad in a jar and discover easy salad recipes.

Worksites stated it was a great team building activity and were interested in future healthy eating workshops. One of the team members from the coalition had her worksite Zarowny Motors, participate in one of these presentations. Here is her account of what happened next:

Last May we participated in the “Salad in a Jar” initiative – staff enjoyed it so much that in June we hosted our own “Buddah Bowl Thursday” lunch session.  In addition, we supplied handouts with information and additional ideas for making their own buddah bowls.

I came across the “Healthy Eating Challenge” in the resources from the Healthy Eating Strategy Kit.  Since March is Nutrition Month, we decided to take the challenge.    20 staff members were eager to get on board so we made 4 teams of 5 (we made sure to mix up the people from the different departments).  We felt it was going to be an excellent team building activity.  Their first task was to nominate a team captain and pick a team name.  A display was set up in the lunchroom that showcased each week’s theme.  Each week motivating emails (that were part of the Challenge package) were sent out as well as additional links that related to that week’s theme.  Also, I sent away for free Nutrition posters that were put up around the dealership and each participant received a set of the free Nutrition postcards.  Throughout the month we also tried to promote the challenge on our facebook page with photos/videos.  (we track our facebook traffic and those posts received a large number of visits from our followers)

The first week of the challenge focused on Fruits and Vegetables.  We scheduled another Salad in a Jar presentation for the entire staff (not just those participating in the challenge).  27 staff members showed up for Taco Salad.  Additionally, we added an extra bonus activity where each team had to choose a vegetable that at least 3 members of their team disliked.  Then they had to find a recipe using that vegetable and have each member “try it” and take a pic. If they shared it with other co-workers they earned more points.  That week at our Town Hall meeting, we substituted donuts with healthy muffins (recipes from the Inspiring recipes link)

Week two was all about fiber.  Our bonus activity was that each team had to make a portable breakfast that provided at least 3 g of fiber, share it with their team (& co-workers if they chose) and take a pic.  Teams were really getting into the challenge and becoming competitive.  The challenge lists ways to earn bonus points so we had quite a few healthy snacks that were prepared and shared with the entire staff that week. 

Week three had participants focusing on what they drank.  We set up the “Sugar Shocker” display in the lunchroom and as a team they had to submit their best guess as to the amount of added sugar in each of the drinks on display.  After their guesses were submitted, we displayed the actual amount of added sugar to each drink.  Again, people were “hungry” for bonus points so lemon water, cucumber water, homemade iced tea and other drinks were prepared and shared at meetings, etc.

The last week was “Hold the Salt”. Our bonus activity required them to read the Nutrition Facts on labels to determine the salt content.  Participants made a lot of comments about how surprised they were to see how much salt was in some foods.  They felt this activity really raised their level of awareness.  As our final activity for the month, everyone brought in a low sodium snack to share (on a day we would normally do our “birthday cake for the month”).

We did keep track of points and awarded the winning team with $25 gift certificates to Sobeys.  Each team also received their participation certificates that were part of the Challenge package.

I administered the post-challenge survey that came with the package and the feedback was positive.  Everyone talked about how they enjoyed the activities and the chance to interact with their co-workers in a “different” way. 

This challenge did more than encourage Healthy Eating.  The overall morale of staff improved and people had fun together.

The staff has been asking for more… plans are under way to host some sort of “physical activity challenge” soon...

Stay tuned!

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