(July 9) Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer once said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

Leading by example is a proven leadership method for parents and teachers — and now for the produce industry.

If 5 a Day could grow by trickle-down vegenomics, the first step might be to reach employees through cafeteria programs, visiting schools and family workplaces, or merely providing information.

Several companies in the produce industry are taking this approach to heart. Four Seasons Produce Inc. was among the first to be recognized for such efforts.

The Ephrata, Pa.-based distributor won an award from the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del., earlier this year for programs encouraging employees to eat five to nine produce servings a day.

Four Seasons introduced a produce item of the day, available for free in the common area of the company’s headquarters, said Ron Carkoski, president and chief executive officer. The company dispensed 861 cases of produce during the first year of the program.

“We follow the color charts that PBH puts out and have a different color every day of the week,” Carkoski said.

He said the item was usually a portable fruit, but vegetables had found their way into the mix.

Supervalu Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., promotes 5 a Day to its employees in a different way. The grocery wholesaler promoted the program within the company and to employees’ families, said Steven Coleman, corporate category manager for produce and floral. He gave presentations at the workplaces of spouses, he said.

Tim Meissner, Supervalu corporate manager of produce and floral, said his company also used pledge cards and cafeteria advertising to encourage employees to eat produce.

Vegetables are the focus of the menu at Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., Philadelphia. Joe Procacci, chief executive officer, said his two cooks prepare multiple servings of fruit and vegetables each day, offering at least five options. On a typical Wednesday, Procacci said his cafeteria served broccoli, cauliflower, salad, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, in addition to other courses and fruit. Procacci’s 100-plus employees are healthier as a result, he said.

Elizabeth Pivonka, president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, said other companies could benefit from positive collateral effects.

“It is important for companies to not just set an example for consumers, but it can improve their health care costs,” she said.

She said the foundation was conducting a study about how much a company saves by providing a healthful diet to its employee base. This cost cut could appeal to companies outside the industry.

Lower health costs is one goal of Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Westlake Village, Calif. Kelli Stewart, Dole 5 a Day program coordinator, said employees have two scheduled breaks during the day: A fruit break at 10:30 a.m. and a vegetable break at 2:30 p.m. During these recesses, fresh produce is available in employee lounges.

In the Dole cafeteria, two specialty plates with a focus on fresh produce are offered at a discount, she said.

Firms lead way  in helping workers reach 5 a Day
Four Seasons Produce Inc., Ephrata, Pa., keeps a 5 a Day cart stocked with produce that employees can pick up for free.