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Recognizing healthy employers

Ray’s Food Place employees embrace company wellness

by: BILL MINTIENS/SPECIAL TO THE CENTRAL OREGONIAN - From Left: Staff from Ray’s Food Place, Sue Dawson, Gayle Eppler, and Walt Blind

C and K Market Inc., the parent company of Ray’s Food Place here in Prineville, was honored this fall by the Portland Business Journal as the Healthiest Employer in Oregon among large companies.
   Family-owned since 1956, C&K Market operates 65 grocery stores and 13 pharmacies under the banners of Ray’s Food Place, Shop Smart, C and K Market, and Pharmacy Express.
   Beating out well-known companies like the Oregon Health and Science University, Providence Health Services, and Kaiser Permanente, the company’s vice president Alan Nidiffer accepted the award at a luncheon on Oct. 10, in Portland.
   Nidiffer credited the company’s “culture of wellness” for the honor.
   In addition to providing affordable health care coverage for employees and their families, C and K Market is helping employees prevent sickness and disease through “wellness” education and innovative on-site programs.
   Walt Blind, store manager at the Prineville Ray’s Food Place for the past year and a half, credits the family atmosphere that C&K Market instills in all its stores for both employee participation — and low turnover. Many existing employees have been working at the store since the early 90s when it was known as the Ochoco Thriftway.
   “Employees who’ve been here a long time like to stay because it’s a family-type business and we like to take care of our employees,” said Blind.
   Noting the significance of the award Blind added, “We want to support our employees and we found that employees are happier and more productive if they are healthy.”
   One of the recent company-wide programs promoting wellness was “The Biggest Loser” competition. Similar to NBC’s popular reality series, each store entered teams to see who lost the most weight. Ray’s in Prineville has consistently been in contention for awards over the past three years of the promotion.
   “We came in third for total weight loss during the last contest. That’s pretty good because there are 1,000 plus employees in the company,” said Blind.
   The contest was so well-received that the overall winners of the contest, three employees from the Ray’s in Merlin, Ore., will be flown to Los Angeles, Calif. next May to be part of the live studio audience during the season finale of “The Biggest Loser.”
   Another promotion, now in its second year, is the “Commit to Quit” smoking cessation program. Open to both employees and their spouses, participants sign a pledge committing to quit and become eligible to purchase smoking cessation aids (gum, lozenges, patches, etc.) at special reduced prices.
   Participants receive goodie bags, which include “Commit to Quit” wrist bands, and are eligible for $25 store gift cards. A drawing for an iPad will take place at the end of the 11-week program, Jan. 31, 2013, for those who have been smoke-free during that time frame.
   Sue Dawson, Florist at Ray’s in Prineville, has been very active with the company’s walking programs. An avid walker, Dawson has participated in the Hood to Coast Relay and the Portland Marathon.
   “The company provided us with low-cost pedometers to track both our personal walking and our ‘challenge’ walking. It’s amazing how many miles I log just walking around the store, six to eight miles a day is common,” said Dawson.
   The company’s virtual walking challenge “Tour de France to Olympic Park” this past summer, ran from June 18 to Aug. 12. Participants registered online and logged their walking miles.
   Competing against all the other C and K stores, the team from Prineville performed well.
   “We really did well in this challenge. Many employees participated and are still tracking their walking miles,” said Dawson.
   This is exactly what C and K Market was hoping to see as a healthy outcome of this promotion.
   “We’re really trying to change the culture around fitness and getting people moving,” said Kate Wilkinson, C and K’s Director of Human Resources.
   It seems to be working here in Prineville. Ray’s is in the planning stage right now for an 8K walking/running event this coming April. Starting and ending at the store the event will include both walking and running. And it will be open to everyone.
   “This is going to be a fun event, a chance to show the community how committed we are to health and fitness,” said Blind.
   “It also fits with the company’s mission statement which is ‘To provide hope, stability, and opportunity to our communities,’” he added.
   Surrounding the health and wellness program is C and K’s commitment to early detection. All employees can participate in “Quest Wellness Testing,” administered by Quest Diagnostics, which can detect the early onset of diabetes and other health problems.
   The “Medical Home Program Panel of Doctors,” another C and K benefit, ensures that employees enrolled in the health benefits program can see a local doctor the very same day their illness surfaces.
   Education-wise, C and K Market also sends a monthly “Health Education Newsletter” to each store. The newsletter highlights proactive health practices, lifestyle tips, and coupons to reinforce employees’ healthy lifestyles.
   Given all of these programs and promotions it’s no wonder that C and K Market was awarded the “Healthiest Employer” award.
   Walt Blind is proud of both his staff and the commitment that C and K Market makes to each store.
   “On top of all the wellness programs, the company has held the insurance premium cost steady for the last four years. This is part of the company’s mission, they really believe in supporting employees.”
   “We’re a private company, family-owned. We don’t want to cut benefits and we don’t want to raise premiums,” said Alan Nidiffer, C and K Market vice president.