Healthy Meetings and Wellness: Creating a Culture of Health Through Policies

Have you attended an Eat Smart Move More South Carolina (ESMMSC) meeting or event and felt annoyed that your only beverage options were water and unsweetened tea? Or that your only food options were salads, wraps, or grilled chicken? There’s a reason for that! ESMMSC has a Healthy Meetings and Wellness Policy that supports its mission and work: to advance community-led change to reduce obesity, by making the healthy choice the easy choice for every South Carolinian.

Many organizations and businesses are implementing healthy meetings and events practices. To send the message that health is important to them, to help support the health of the employees, members, and partners, and to have more energized and engaged participants, organizations and businesses should adopt healthy meetings and events policies too.

“If we served sugar-sweetened beverages, fried foods, and went heavy on refined carbs at our meetings and events where food is served, it would completely go against everything our organization stands for,” said Meg Stanley, executive director at ESMMSC. “We care about the health of everyone we come in contact with, so it just makes sense to have these types of policies in place and to implement them.”

Far too often, organizations and businesses serve unhealthy breakfast, lunch, and snack foods at conferences and meetings. And that’s easy to do when there aren’t policies in place that provide guidelines.

“For example, if you’re a health insurance company and your mission, in part, is to keep healthcare costs down, serving fried chicken at a  meeting makes it hard to say you’re staying true to your mission,” says Stanley. “The same is true for any business, small or large. If you care about employee health and wellness, you should have a policy in place and enforce that policy.”

Since its inception in 2007, ESMMSC has maintained and implemented a Healthy Meetings and Wellness Policy: Given our mission to make the healthy choice the easy choice for every South Carolinian, ESMMSC aims to create a workplace that promotes and supports healthy lifestyles for both employees and partners. As such, ESMMSC has adopted the following wellness policies: Healthy Meetings and Catering, Movement Meetings, Physical Activity Opportunities, Sharing Food, and Staff Wellness.

Each of these policies provides opportunities to those who attend ESMMSC meetings and events, as well as staff, to eat healthy foods and to engage in healthy activities. Download the ESMMSC policy.

“I’ll be honest, when I started working at ESMMSC eight years ago, I wasn’t thrilled about the policies, but I’ve come to appreciate them. They make me accountable for my health and wellness,” says Brandie Freeman, communications and marketing manager at ESMMSC. “With these policies in place, I drink more water, snack on fruits instead of chips and candy, and have managed to eat more vegetables with my meals. I mean, I’m not perfect. I still indulge, but I don’t do it quite so often.”

If your organization or business would like to adopt a Healthy Meetings and Wellness Policy, there are a couple of reputable resources available online. You can also contact ESMMSC.

  1. The American Heart Association’s Healthy Workplace Food and Toolkit
  2. Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Healthy Meetings Resources

Adopting a Healthy Meetings and Wellness Policy is a great way to highlight the culture of health within your organization or business and be part of the growing movement around health and wellness. For more information, contact Executive Director Meg Stanley at meg@eatsmartmovemoresc.org or Manager of Policy and Advocacy Phil Ford at phil@eatsmartmovemoresc.org.

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