By Libby Dunne
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)
Americans spend an average of 90% of their time indoors. Therefore, the indoor environment in which people spend most of their time (at home and at work) should be conducive to good health. One of the core building blocks for overall health is healthy eating. Healthy eating supports an active lifestyle, as well as contributes to weight loss, diabetes management, cardiovascular health, improved mood, and a reduced risk of developing cancer. Therefore, building attributes such as location, quality of food options provided, and access to fresh food programs can play important roles in developing healthy eating habits that extend even beyond the workplace. Fitwel has multiple strategies geared towards ensuring building occupants are presented with healthy food choices in order to create lasting habits.
Building location plays a major role in overall health. Not only do attributes such as access to public transportation, outdoor spaces, and fitness centers aid in promoting physical activity, but proximity to farmers markets and other fresh food centers can have a wide variety of health, societal, and economic benefits. Supporting farmers markets help to grow the local economy, support small businesses and family farms, promote sustainable agriculture practices, and prioritize humane treatment of farm animals. Proximity to farmers markets also promotes social interaction. Fitwel strategy 3.5 rewards projects for being within ½ mile of a farmer’s market, making it easy for building occupants to go on a lunch break or after work.
Fitwel strategy 3.6 focuses on providing building occupants with access to a fruit and vegetable garden. Not only does this help to enhance the surrounding community, but also instills the importance of eating locally and organically grown fruit and vegetables. Additionally, gardening is known to be a natural stress reliever, meaning that providing a fruit and vegetable garden onsite can help improve overall mental health as well. Fitwel strategy 8.10 gives projects points if they provide access to a crop share or food delivery program. These types of programs help provide occupants with healthy food as well as support local businesses.
Many office buildings provide prepared food areas, vending machines, or snack bars for building occupants. The design and pricing of food provided by these services is vital to promoting healthy food selection. Different design practices can help to highlight healthy food choices over other options. Package design, nutrition labeling, and advertisement displays featuring healthy options can help to influence building occupants to choose healthier food options. Also, providing discounts on healthy menu items or providing free fruit in common spaces can also increase the likelihood of someone choosing healthy meals or snacks over less healthy alternatives. Fitwel strategies 10.2, 10.3, 11.2, and 11.3 focus on implementing these design strategies in spaces where food is provided or sold within a project to promote healthy eating.
The many Fitwel strategies focused on healthy foods emphasize the importance of making healthy eating choices in the workplace. Perhaps more importantly, habits created at the workplace translate to other areas, helping people to make healthy choices in all aspects of their lives.
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