(Oct. 17) WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — David Murdock had said that one of the advantages of taking his company, Dole Food Co. Inc., private was that it enabled him to take action without having to answer to stockholders.

Now, Murdock, who has been preaching that Dole needs to expand its role in setting a nutritional example, introduced a wellness program for employees Oct. 14 at the company’s Westlake Village headquarters.

The Dole Employee Wellness Program, which focuses on nutrition and exercise programs, gives Dole employees incentives to eat meals loaded with fruits and vegetables and get involved in exercise initiatives on the company’s Westlake Village campus.

The program includes one-on-one nutrition counseling, on-site yoga and fitness classes, walking groups, free fruit and vegetable snacks, price breaks on nutritional cafeteria fare and other programs.

“With (this program), we walk the walk by putting into practice the measures the Dole Nutrition Institute advocates,” said Jennifer Grossman, director of the Dole Nutrition Institute. “We hope our experience can serve as a blueprint for corporations, communities and government officials, as they strive to combat obesity, contain health-care costs and create a healthy environment.”

Indeed, other corporations have picked up on the idea of wellness among employees, said Eric Bost, undersecretary of agriculture for food, nutrition and consumer services, who attended and addressed the gathering of about 500 in the auditorium at the Dole headquarters.

“There are some companies in the U.S. who have already started wellness programs, and this is just a wonderful program that Mr. Murdock has started because it is completely financed by the company, which is great,” Bost said afterward. “And there is an incentive of employees. It goes a long way toward improving the well-being of the employees themselves.”

As part of the program, Dole brought in a full-time nutritionist, Tara Cox. Cox will provide one-on-one nutrition consultations and group health education programs for more than 300 employees at Dole’s Westlake Village offices.