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Westfields promotes the healthy power of 'Yum'

Chad Engstrom (left), human resources director, and Linda Stefonek, registered dietician, are part of the Wellness Committee at Westfields Hospital in New Richmond. The committee is working closely with HealthPartners' "Yum Power" effort to provide better food choices in the hospital's cafeteria and in the vending machines.1 / 2
Westfields Hospital employees had a chance to taste the new "Yum Power" choices at a launch event July 18. Among the new vending machine options are pita chips, dried fruit and gluten-free offerings.2 / 2

'Yum Power' has launched in New Richmond.

"Yum Power" commercials promoting HealthPartners' new initiative have been on local television and in newspapers for a few months. The more memorable promotional efforts have included celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern eating such things as tarantulas and assorted bugs.

New Richmond's foray into "Yum Power" has nothing to do with such adventurous eating. It has everything to do with providing consumers with more choices for eating healthier foods.

On July 18, Westfields Hospital in New Richmond launched its "Yum Power" effort in the facility's cafeteria.

The main vending machine in the room, where staff, patients and patients' families can be found seeking nourishment, was converted into a "Yum Power" center.

According to Chad Engstrom, human resources director at the hospital, the vending machine will now carry 35 to 40 percent "better-for-you" choices.

Instead of exclusively carrying a bunch of candy bars, potato chips and other nasty treats, the vending machine will also stock such things as pretzels, granola bars, baked chips, trail mix and dried fruit.

Westfields held a special "tasting" event during last week's official launch to give employees a chance to identify a few new favorite snacks.

"We're excited to offer the new products," Engstrom said. "And the employees seem excited about some of the new products."

Viking Coca Cola, the company that stocks the hospital's vending machines, said they will offer options that have no salt, are gluten-free and are overall healthier options.

"Some people still want the Snickers, but it's nice to have options too," said Gina Elich, account manager with Viking. "If they see the healthy choices, they're more cognizant of making better choices."

The goal of "Yum Power" is to provide "good-for-you" foods that power one's body and help people live the best life possible.

"We're really trying to get the community to eat better," said Shannon Beaudin Klein, vice president of marketing communications for HealthPartners. "And by eating better it prevents chronic disease. Improved health ultimately reduces health care costs and that's good for everybody."

Research shows that when you eat better, you feel better, Beaudin Klein said. So HealthPartners and its partner organizations, like Westfields, created the "Yum Power" movement.

To help expand the "Yum Power" effort, HealthPartners is offering a website that includes recipes and information about eating healthier foods. The health care organization also offers a text message program that sends users a weekly tip on eating better. There are also "Yum Power" mobile applications that can help people make better choices when eating out at restaurants.

"We want this to be part of a broader community effort to help people become healthier," Beaudin Klein said.

Westfields is carrying its "Yum Power" efforts into other parts of the cafeteria as well. The hospital will soon be displaying "Yum Power" stickers on various food choices that meet the "better-for-your" criteria.

Employees and visitors eating in the cafeteria are also encouraged to eat healthier and are offered a 50-cent vegetable upgrade for any meals purchased during the day.

Cafeteria customers are also allowed to substitute healthy choices for less healthy side dishes if they like, according to Laurie Harvieux, community relations director at Westfields.

"All of us are becoming more aware of making better choices," Harvieux said. "Westfields wants to support everyone's interest in becoming healthier, so we provide a lot of choices for people. We're trying to make everything easy and simple."

Now that "Yum Power" has been established at Westfields, Engstrom said the local hospital is ready to work with other organizations and businesses in the New Richmond area.

With the help of HealthPartners, Engstrom said the hospital will connect with other community locations to encourage them to "yumify" their vending machines. The goal is to make each vending machine in the community a "Yum Power" machine, so better choices are available to people if they desire to change their snacking habits.

"That will be our second step in this process," Engstrom said, "reaching out to others in the community."