St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) employees looking to eat healthy have a convenient and bountiful option.
The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) 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 E. Previato, DipACLM 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.”
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 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 noted.
The program offers benefits to all of its key stakeholders.
Previato explained that St. Luke’s Employee Wellness Program includes an annual health assessment that asks employees about their lifestyles – what they do and don’t do on a regular basis – including things like nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress management and more.
“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.”
Secondly, Previato explained that 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 points out.
“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 in the communities near each distribution site so that unclaimed shares of fruits and vegetables are donated to them each week.