Community Action Planning Council (CAPC) is known for helping the community.  Their many programs – including Head Start and Universal Pre-K, the Family Center, Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project, and Housing and Energy Services – all aim to advance community prosperity.  These various programs all seek to support and empower their customers.  What may be less known, is how they also support and empower their employees.

 Over the past two years, in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County and the Northeast Regional Nutrition Education Center of Excellence at Cornell University, CAPC has served as one of several sites across the country engaged in a research project to assess the effects of combining nutrition education with policy, systems, and environmental changes in community agencies and daycare centers to support healthy habits for employees and agency participants. Some of the changes that they have implemented include: writing a comprehensive wellness policy to promote and encourage opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity in the workplace; creating a healthy “vending machine” to provide staff with low-cost healthy snacks that meet federal recommendations; hosting monthly “Salad Mondays” to encourage staff to bring and share healthy lunch offerings; holding monthly physical activity challenges such as a stair climber challenge to encourage staff to get up and move throughout the day; and hosting physical fitness classes led by certified instructors after hours to make it easier for staff to get more physical activity.

 Although this research project is wrapping up next month, CAPC is just getting started.  Through a joint effort of both their marketing committee and wellness committee, the agency has elected to devote their final staff meeting of the year to an employee wellness fare.  Staff are invited to come early for an outdoor scavenger hunt before heading inside for a variety of wellness activities and information including: Zumba, yoga, container herb gardening, financial health panel discussion, health screenings, Lyme disease prevention, portion control and nutrition facts label reading, chair massage, local foods, and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services.  Dawn Cole, Deputy Director says, “As part of the strategic planning process, the agency hosted a number of forums for staff.  A healthy workplace was brought up in every session, and it was made clear that fostering a healthy environment has become a core value of Community Action.”

 Moving forward, the Adopting Healthy Habits Community Coalition, of which CAPC is an active member, will continue helping CAPC and other local organizations implement these types of policy, systems, and environmental changes.  To learn more about the Adopting Healthy Habits research project at CAPC or how your organization can get involved in worksite wellness and other AHH initiatives, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County at 315-788-8450 and ask for April Bennett.