Preparing a deli lunch

State Street Deli co-owner John Nardi prepares a healthy lunch at the deli.

MASON CITY | Metalcraft has had a wellness committee for nearly 10 years, so when the Blue Zones Project came to Mason City it was a natural fit.

"We just felt like being certified as a Blue Zones Worksite would be very supportive of what we’re already trying to do with our own wellness team," said Steve Doerfler, president and CEO of the company that makes custom fixed asset tags and labels, metal bar codes and similar projects. 

"We just thought it would be a good match and work in a good parallel way."

Blue Zones promotes healthier, happier living through lifestyle changes. Mason City was selected as a Blue Zones Demonstration Site in May 2012 and has been busy trying to meet the certification requirements by May of this year. Part of the requirement is certifying businesses, restaurants, grocery stores and schools.

Metalcraft was among the first 10 businesses to become a Blue Zones Worksite with certification in March 2013.

"We’ve been doing a lot of the Blue Zones-type things for quite a while," said Jim Miller, vice president of engineering and part of the wellness committee. "This prompted us to make a few changes. A lot of it is documentation of things we were already doing."

Some highlights have included adding a healthy snack zone to the break room, stretch breaks for both production and office workers, and measured walking routes outside and inside of the building.

Metalcraft also offers incentives for its employees through its insurance company, Miller said.

Lunch-and-learns on health-related topics such as diets for diabetes are held every few months as well, Doerfler said.

"We’ve got some people that have made changes in their lives and they’re feeling much better and productive," Miller said. "We’re hoping long-term this a benefit for the company in saving our health costs year to year."

For the Overhead Door Co./Midwest Roofing Co., it's too soon to see the impacts of becoming a certified Blue Zones Worksite. At the beginning of February, the company became the 33rd local business to receive the designation.

"We don’t have any sound statistics yet," said Meagan Steinberg, marketing/PR coordinator.

However, the company views the certification as important.

"The reason why we wanted to get on board with what the community is doing is we like the idea of giving our employees local resources to make better health decisions not only for themselves but their families," Steinberg said.

Some pledge actions Overhead Door Co./Midwest Roofing Co. has made have been removing a vending machine and replacing it with a refrigerator, mapping out some walking courses near the building and communicating about different opportunities, Steinberg said.

"I don’t know if we heard a whole lot (of response)," Steinberg said about removing the vending machine. "I think it was a change that took some getting used to, but now, not only do employees save money but make better choices."

As far as communicating about different opportunities, such as community Blue Zones activities, the company includes them in a newsletter and a bulletin board.

"A lot of it boils down to communications," Steinberg said, adding that a lot of the opportunities are free, too.

Steinberg said the company also encourages individuals to share any personal changes they've made.

State Street Deli was just the second business to be certified as a Blue Zones Restaurant in July 2013.

"Mostly because the community asked for healthier choices," said Pam Nardi about why she and her husband, John, pursued the certification. "I thought it was a good idea. People should be able to make healthy choices no matter where they eat."

Restaurants must offer at least three healthy main-dish items (excluding salads) that meet the Healthy Dish Guidelines in addition to at least one pledge from the categories of nutrition improvements, menu improvements and improvements to the eating environment.

Nardi said State Street Deli was "60 percent of the way there already" with its healthy sandwich meats of roast beef, turkey and ham. It also already offered healthy bread options and sides including a three-bean salad and pasta salad.

"Basically we brought in low-fat mayonnaise to substitute for our mayonnaise," she said.

The restaurant also promotes drinking water by it foundation drinks and made changes to the children's menu.

"With the children’s menu we just cut the sandwiches in half and added a fruit cocktail in light syrup to keep it under 500 calories," Nardi said.

Nardi said a new menu board was up to inform customers about the changes.

She said "a lot of our customers are pretty well educated about what’s healthy for them or not."

She expects the restaurant to highlight the changes more later this spring.

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