Healthier Snacks for Government Employees: First Lady Dawn Ige Helps Expand the Choose Healthy Now Program

Posted on Aug 25, 2015 in Ola Lokahi

Choose Healthy First Lady

First Lady Dawn Amano-Ige congratulates the vendors in the Ho‘opono Business Enterprise Program for their participation in the Choose Healthy Now program

It’s usually easy to find unhealthy snacks during your workday. But do you and your colleagues have access to healthy options?

The Choose Healthy Now program just celebrated its one-year anniversary and is expanding statewide, giving more government employees access to healthier snacks and beverages while at work. Promoting healthy options during the workday increases the likelihood that employees will make better snack choices.

Here’s how it works: Participating vendors label snack shop items green (“Go!”), yellow (“Slow”) and red (“Uh-Oh”). This enables employees to easily identify healthier food and beverage items so that they are able to make prudent, better informed selections.

Healthy vending is part of worksite wellness programming. Worksite wellness has been shown to be effective at improving the health of employees, lowering overall health care costs, reducing absenteeism, and improving employee morale and productivity.

Program Expansion

Choose Healthy Now launched in May 2014 with six snack shops located in state and federal government buildings on Oahu, through a partnership between the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services’ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Ho‘opono Business Enterprise Program (Blind Vending Program). By January 2016, the program will expand to an additional 12 snack shops, for a total of 20 government worksites across the state.

“Through their involvement in this program, the Ho‘opono blind vendors receive training on making healthier food selections available for their customers,” said Rachael Wong, Director of the Hawaii Department of Human Services. “And they feel good about the important role they play in promoting a healthy diet to help Hawaii’s people to live healthier, longer, quality years of life.”

Choose Healthy Now has also recently expanded to the private sector. Castle Medical Center began implementing the program in their cafeteria in August 2014. And just last month, Aloha Petroleum became first retail business in Hawaii to pilot Choose Healthy Now. Aloha Island Marts in Kahala and Waianae now feature a healthy section of green “Go!” items, and if all goes well, the company plans to expand the program to all Aloha Island Mart locations statewide.

Endorsement by First Lady

First Lady Dawn Ige has chosen Choose Healthy Now as her platform and is overseeing program expansion alongside staff from the Department of Health. In a ceremony on July 22, Mrs. Ige personally honored the Ho’opono snack shop vendors with “Healthy Vending Champion Awards” for being among the first to participate in the program. The ceremony was followed by a taste test featuring the new healthy items.

“Many of us spend most of our day at work,” said First Lady Dawn Ige. “Having access to healthy snacks and drinks at work allows employees to make better choices for their overall health, and it increases productivity throughout the work day.”

On July 29, Mrs. Ige publicly congratulated Aloha Petroleum for being the first Hawaii retail business to adopt Choose Healthy Now. This move generated interest from other businesses, such as food distributors, who see the need to provide healthier options for Choose Healthy Now businesses and vending sites.

Mrs. Ige herself has also begun implementing the program, setting up the Governor’s Office staff rooms and kitchens with Choose Healthy Now materials. The Governor’s staff now sort the food in these common areas by category— green (“Go!”), yellow (“Slow”) and red (“Uh-Oh”)—so that they can make better informed decisions for their health.

Why Promote Healthy Snacking?

Poor nutrition contributes to obesity, which has serious health and economic implications. Currently, more than one in two adults in Hawaii are overweight and one in five are obese. The estimated annual direct medical care costs associated with obesity is over $470 million. Without effective interventions, one-half of adults in Hawaii are projected to be obese by the year 2030.

“In the midst of our obesity epidemic and rising chronic disease rates, Choose Healthy Now provides a practical solution for employees to make prudent food choices, so that they feel better and can enjoy better long term health,” said Dr. Virginia Pressler, Director of Health. “The word is spreading as more businesses in Hawaii choose to offer healthier options through this program making a valuable contribution to the health of our communities.”

For more information on the Choose Healthy Now program, contact Carolyn Donohoe Mather at [email protected] or (808) 586-4526.