WELL Story: Nourishment at Structure Tone
Throughout the WELL certification process, project teams have the opportunity to implement unique strategies and interventions that align with each concept in the WELL Building Standard™. We sat down with Jennifer Taranto, Director of Sustainability at Structure Tone to discuss how her team embraced the nourishment concept at their new WELL Certified space in NYC.
How did you get involved in the WELL building movement?
WELL was first brought into our organization by Rob Leon, a Senior Vice President at Structure Tone’s New York office. Through him, I was afforded the opportunity to attend an event at the Cleveland Clinic where I was able to hear doctors speak about how indoor spaces affect our health and wellness. It was after this experience that I immediately began to explore the intricate link between human health and wellness and the buildings and communities where we spend the majority of our time. Having two small children, their argument was especially impactful for me and I began to think about how I could implement this approach in my personal life, as well as for our company and our clients.
Congratulations again on achieving WELL Silver. From your perspective, what are the most exciting aspects of your WELL project?
Some of my favorite elements within our office are biophilia, our celebration of company culture, the circadian-designed lighting system and, of course, the food. Before WELL, our office nourishment strategy was limited to the traditional vending system. We provided our employees with one option for candy and one for soda. Pursuing WELL gave us the opportunity to rethink this approach and to provide new, healthier options. As a construction company, we were familiar with the various innovations in food vending and our experiences led us to build a wellness café with grab-and-go refrigerators. Employees can easily visit the refrigerators throughout the day and check out using their thumb print or scan card that links back to their account.
In addition to providing foods and drinks that meet WELL requirements, we wanted to go above and beyond to implement a strategy to spur true behavioral change. We realized that healthy foods are often cost prohibitive so we subsidized all of our new offerings to incentivize our employees to make the right choices without worrying about spending more.
What challenges did you encounter and how did you solve them?
Sourcing 100% whole grain snack options was not as easy as anticipated, but we recognized the importance of eating whole grains over refined grain. We decided that whenever refined grain options were provided onsite, we would match them with a similar product that was made from whole grains, and this whole grain option would be less expensive. This helped to keep everyone happy by providing a variety of snacks, while also encouraging healthier choices!
How did the WELL Certification process change how you think about nourishment in your everyday life?
For me, I am now super cognizant of whole grain flours in foods. Because I have two small children, this is one of the healthy habits I’m trying to instill in them -- a love of whole grains. I also try to eliminate processed foods and foods overly laden in sugar. I definitely take these healthier habits home with me and I’m always aware of them while I’m out grocery shopping or travelling.
Who were the key stakeholders involved in the process to implement these nourishment interventions?
Our biggest stakeholder was Barbara Henry from our HR department. Barbara is our benefits manager and really the leader of the wellness café. She worked with our food vendor to explain what the specific WELL requirements were and discuss strategies for how best to meet them. This also helped our food vendor to elevate their healthy offerings and change how they were marketing themselves.
What positive impacts resulted from the changes you made to your workplace nourishment strategy?
I think it’s true that the fastest way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. People frequently use the cafe because it’s the most convenient and least expensive way to consume healthier food. I recently spoke with a gentlemen who remarked how he always buys his sparkling water in the office because it’s actually half the cost of going down to the street.
I’ve learned that when you can show people that you are thinking about their lives and health in a holistic manner, they are much more open to changing their behaviors and getting on board. Our cafe is a benefit that our employees can see and really feel both in their pocketbooks and in their everyday lives. There are even people who take food home at the end of the day because the salads are so good. They love that they can grab a healthier, less expensive dinner and bring what they’ve learned and experienced at work home to their families. It really shows that the impact of WELL extends far beyond the office and into people’s everyday lives.