Anyone trying to eat as healthy as possible knows how incredible Whole Foods is. Any time I travel, I check if there’s a Whole Foods close to where I’m going – its always a saving grace since I know I’ll find good food to eat and stash in my hotel room. In addition to selling the healthiest food around, I’ve always known that CEO John Mackey set up a great health and nutrition-support system for his employees. I recently found out just how good it was.
I happened to be at the Whole Foods close to my office in Sherman Oaks a few weeks ago, and I ran into the marketing director there, Wendy. I told her that I’d noticed the shift towards more “Health Starts Here” items in the prepared foods section and that I was really impressed with the store. She told me the reason why they’d been putting so much more of the “HSH” and Engine 2 stuff in the store is that they were prepping for an employee 28-day challenge coming up in February. I told her I was a blogger working in the area and she asked me to come back to report on what they were up to with their program.
Last Friday, I showed up at the store and met some of the participants in the challenge. Wendy explained that they chose to try the “Engine 2” version of the challenge (apparently there’s also a dedicated “Health Starts Here” version as well) and then turned the floor over to the store manager, Jean, who had already been through the program and filled the team members in about Rip Esselstyn’s story, the rules of the challenge, and more.
There are two paths that the team members can choose to take – a more gradual “fire cadet” program where they change their diet a few components per week, and the fast track “firefighter” program for people who want to jump right into it with both feet. Each team member got a packet and a food journal to keep track of their progress, and Wendy explained that she’d be providing a bunch of oil-free condiments in the break room for free for all the team members (Bragg’s etc.). She’s also going to set up a team member Facebook page where people can post recipes, comments about their progress, and questions about the program.
In addition to the yearly free biometric screenings, free McDougall immersion trips for employees suffering from more serious health problems, and the progressive employee discount card based on their health markers, this 28-day program is yet another reason why Whole Foods seems like one of the best companies to work for. I can envision a future in which all companies, big and small, support their employees in this way. These programs create more productive, healthier, and happier employees, and would make any company a desirable place to work and stay loyal to. I’ll be reporting back later this month with results from the program, so stay tuned!