Monarch Beverage’s active staff now trained to eat better, too

Monarch Beverage’s active staff now trained to eat better, too

It’s no coincidence that Monarch Beverage Co.’s wellness program is led by a registered dietitian.

A majority of the beverage distributor’s approximately 700 employees are physically active by default. The firm has a giant sale team that is constantly on the road and on the go, and its sizable delivery staff has to be at a certain level of fitness to do all the heavy lifting that goes with the job. Its warehouse staff, meantime, gets plenty of exercise traversing the company’s 500,000-sq-ft warehouse.

The biggest problem, said nutritionist, fitness and wellness coordinator, Natalie Buchs, is that food Monarch’s employees eat. The company’s many road warriors have hectic schedules that increase their appetites. But food choices and time are in short supply. “Delivering product all day doesn’t make you want to go eat a salad,” Buchs said.

Another challenge for Monarch was that its wellness program had grown too big to be managed by marketing and human resources staff. So management decided to kill two birds with one stone. They created a full-time position dedicated to managing the program and filled the position with a dietitian.

Enter Buchs, who started last February.

She has started administering a thee-hour wellness exam for each employee. Nutrition is a hot topic. “That’s where people struggle,” said Buchs, who is seeing to it that fresh fruit and vegetables are available throughout Monarch’s buildings here in Sellersburg and Evansville.

Monarch no longer has vending machines. Break time means free fruit and vegetables, Buchs said. “A lot of our drivers will come through in the morning to grab things to eat on the road.” More than 1,000 pounds of complimentary fresh produce is distributed every week at Monarch.

The fresh food mantra isn’t lost on the company’s relatively small office staff.

Danny Kindle, 40, who has been a systems analyst at Monarch for 18 years, sits at his desk about 75 percent of the time. The weight loss competitions Monarch has are great for losing weight temporarily, he said, but “six months later you’re back where you started.”

When the company started emphasizing education, that’s when things clicked for Kindle. “It’s knowing how to eat correctly,” he said. Like choosing avocado instead of mayonnaise for your sandwich.

The message has sunk in. Kindle weighed 232 pounds a few years ago. Now he weighs 178, an achievement he said is a combination of better eating and more physical activity.

Monarch is good at finding different ways for employees to be active, Kindle said. “I have no interest in running a mini-marathon, but I like to play basketball.” When Monarch struck a deal with the Lawrence YMCA to make its basketball courts available to Monarch employees, Kindle took advantage.

Basketball is a supplement to other activities Kindle participates int o reach his daily goals. Among those activities are some interesting challenges unique to Monarch. This summer employees have been participating in a 12-week program called Beverage Bound. It’s a virtual walk across the country, with stops at breweries and wineries.

In a recent week, about 260 employees were talking to the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. in Chippewa Falls, Wis. That required about 9,000 steps per person per day. As the challenge progresses, the destinations get farther away and the step requirements grow. Participants who achieve the weekly goal get a sampler of product from the destination brewery and information about the company’s history.

Monarch also has an on-sit clinic that has helped employees detect early signs of diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and help them head off those conditions before they became serious.

The clinic, staffed by Activate Healthcare, if open 40 hours a week and includes a physician, nurse practitioner and athletic trainer. It offers both sick and well care. Anything you would get from a family doctor is available at the clinic, Buchs said. What it has that family doctors don’t is free prescriptions mailed to employees’ homes.

The clinic offers not only physicals but fit tests, which are administered by the athletic trainer. All sales, warehouse and delivery staff take the test, which assesses their ability to handle the physical demands of their job and make sure they are lifting properly.

Monarch also encourages its employees to participate in community events that promote fitness. The company picks up part of the entry free for sporting events like the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-Marathon.

Earlier this year, 139 employees, spouses and dependents signed up. When the race was over, they’d collectively run almost 1,111 miles.