At Eastern Health, our goal is to provide the highest quality care and service possible to the people in our communities. We work with the communities we serve, and partner with organizations who share a commitment to quality health care and improved health and wellbeing.
Each year around Christmas, Eastern Health employees graciously donate to local food banks through the Community Food Sharing Association. Following this year’s donation, we came to learn that summer is also one of their most challenging times of the year as donations are typically lower. Children are out of school and away from school-based nutrition programing, which puts an increased pressure on parents and families.
According to Eg Walters, general manager of the Community Food Sharing Association, “It’s natural in a privileged society to think hunger can’t affect our community. But it does. Today, right now, in Newfoundland and Labrador, there are thousands of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They are adults living in your neighbourhood, in your community. Many of them are working in low-paying jobs as they struggle to make ends meet. There are children distracted by hunger in school or at play this summer with your children.”
It was a no-brainer. Eastern Health’s Healthy Workplace Committee decided to take action – and employees right across the region stepped up to make a difference!
Many hands make light work
In December of 2016, Eastern Health employees demonstrated in a big way how they regularly give back to their community. Throughout the month though a Healthy Workplace initiative known as Pay it Forward, employees shared stories of how they give back to their coworkers, patients, families and communities. The organization’s Healthy Workplace Committee was inspired by this and wanted to continue the theme of paying it forward. And this is how the Feel Good Food Drive began.
Eastern Health has over 13 000 employees and geographically our sites extend west from St. John’s to Port Blandford and includes all communities on the Avalon, Burin and Bonavista Peninsulas. Initially, the thought of a food drive to cover a region this large seemed like a daunting task. The committee knew that they could pull this off with strong support from employees living and working in all of those sites and communities.
A call for volunteers went out and employees responded – lots of employees. Within a week, the committee had employee representation on 40 of our major sites, a total of over 100 volunteers across the region!
Employees made this initiative their own. Emergency Department employees at the Health Sciences Centre, for example, put out a challenge to other departments within the building to see which group could bring in the most number of food items. The outcome? The Health Sciences Centre alone brought in “80 boxes of food – equaling four jam-packed pallets – a huge success that was a “feel good” food drive on our site” said Jeannine Herritt, a volunteer who help lead the initiative at the Health Sciences Centre.
The winner of the challenge? It was the employees of the Diagnostic Imaging Department at the Health Sciences Centre who donated over 480 food items. Amazing!
Employees gave and received
The ultimate goal of this food drive was to give back to a community. And we did, in a big way! The grand total of food received across the region was 26,000 pounds. Based on the monetary conversion, that equates to almost $60,000 in donated food items.
The Community Food Sharing Association was very happy with the outcome of this drive. Mr. Walters said: “Your donation will be great in helping us alleviate hunger in our province and we look forward to your continued support!”
While the contribution was tremendous, employees took great satisfaction from the act of giving. Employees all over the region reflected on the teamwork demonstrated during the drive and the positive impact the food drive had on them.
Kelly Scaplan, a manager at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, shared about her experience with the food drive: “I had the honour of connecting with several departments at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital to promote the food drive. The response from each area was always positive, energetic and one person noted that this is a great initiative to promote employee engagement while working together for great contributions to our community.”
With the recent release of Eastern Health’s 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, creating a healthier work environment through increased employee engagement will be a focus of the next three year cycle. Initiatives like a Feel Good Food Drive can certainly help move this goal in a positive direction by connecting coworkers; allowing opportunities to see success on a site and regional level, while also giving back to the community where employees live, work and play. ■
This story was written by Leslie O’Keefe, human resources strategist. She is also a member of the Eastern Health Healthy Workplace Steering Committee.