About this time last year, we were in Dhaka, Bangladesh interviewing a garment factory manager about her company’s workforce nutrition program. They were participating in a pilot with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) aimed at improving the nutritional quality of the meals served to employees. She told us that her company wanted to provide healthy food to employees, but they weren’t always sure how to provide healthier meals.

In many ways, the factory was already ahead of industry standards around workforce nutrition: they offered a free meal to employees each day, they worked with a local nutritionist to assess their menu through the pilot program, and they negotiated with their caterer to provide healthier meal options. They saw value in offering healthy food to employees and wanted to do more.

Benefits of Workforce Nutrition
Workforce nutrition programs offer benefits for employees as well as businesses, such as reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and improved employee satisfaction and health outcomes. Over the last year, we collaborated with GAIN and the Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SBN) to develop the Nutrition at Work handbook, a resource for businesses looking to initiate a workforce nutrition program in emerging markets. Although there are different types of workforce nutrition programs, the focus of this resource is on businesses providing healthy meals and snacks to employees during the workday.

The Nutrition at Work Handbook
Eat Well Global’s vision is a world where good nutrition is good business, which is why we were eager to work with GAIN and SBN to develop a useful resource on this topic. In the process of developing this handbook, we conducted a needs assessment by interviewing businesses and SBN coordinators in countries that have growing workforce nutrition initiatives, including Bangladesh, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Pakistan and Ethiopia. We found that despite the differences in culture or business sector, they often face similar challenges:

  • Demonstrating the value of healthy food: Advocates within organisations need resources to show their internal stakeholders and decision makers the business benefits of offering healthy food to employees.
  • Knowing what makes a healthy meal or snack: Many businesses are looking for guidance on nutrition and what foods to offer.
  • Staying within budget: Businesses are most interested in changes that are low-cost or cost-neutral to stay on budget.
  • Demonstrating success: Employers often struggle to track outcomes to show that the program is working.

We focused on these areas when developing the handbook content so that it would be useful and relevant to employers. The target audience for the handbook includes businesses that offer snacks or a single-meal choice to employees during the workday and also employers that do not currently offer food but are interested in taking the first steps towards a workforce nutrition program. The handbook is divided into four sections: The Business Case, Building a Healthy Meal, Building a Healthy Snack and Program Management, each of which might be relevant to different businesses, depending on their current program.

Throughout the sections, case studies demonstrate how other businesses have approached their workforce nutrition program. Additionally, cost-effective recommendations help businesses decide on an approach that’s right for them.

Launching the Handbook
As we transition from developing the handbook to launching and disseminating it, our goal is to get it into the hands of those who are looking to do more — like the garment factory manager we interviewed in Bangladesh — plantation, mining or manufacturing plant managers or other change agents across business sectors. We hope it provides the guidance and recommendations needed to support their impactful program. Additionally, we hope this handbook serves as inspiration for businesses just getting started or for those that may not have considered the value of providing healthy food to employees.

Visit NutritionConnect.org to download the Nutrition at Work handbook and drop us a line if you’d like to know more.