Can you share a little background for the Passport to Family Wellness program?
The Passport was the brainchild of Linda Lovejoy, our Community Relations Manager. About ten years ago Linda met with Penfield, NY officials to discuss how we could jointly encourage local residents to get moving as a way to enjoy healthier, better lives. Working with an innovative Parks and Recreation volunteer in Penfield along with our Nutrition Team, Linda developed the Passport to Family Wellness, a fun way to encourage exploration of local nature trails. The result: a pocket-sized trail "passport" with easy-to-read maps, fitness tips, and motivation in the form of prizes for trails hiked and recorded in booklets.
Today, over 60 Wegmans stores partner with town and city recreation programs, park conservancy groups, fitness programs, and more—and hundreds of families are discovering the fun of hiking, skiing, canoeing, biking, and exploring their town's picturesque trails. Our message of helping build healthy communities continues to expand and now includes many of the new communities where we are growing right here in Maryland.
Recreation & Parks Month just ended (July) so how was the experience?
Fantastic! July was one of the best months to celebrate for us as we launched a brand new Passport program with many great events near our Columbia, MD store on July 1st in conjunction with the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks (HCRP).
A quote from the press release (full script can be found at www.wegmans.com):
“July is Recreation & Parks Month and the Passport to Family Wellness kicks off this nationwide month of awareness to promote active lifestyles in parks and facilities here in Howard County. Throughout the month of July, HCRP will be offering several free events; to learn more about these events, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/recandparksmonth.”
How were you able to tie nutrition and your store back into the theme and initiative?
One of our four Eat Well Live Well principles here at Wegmans is to “Get Moving.” The Passport program naturally ties right back into the health and wellness initiatives we promote. It makes perfect sense to partner with local parks and help people get moving on the trails. The Passport ties users right back into our messaging, which we believe will bring them into the stores looking for more healthy ideas, like “Strive for Five Fruits and Vegetables,” another one of our Eat Well Live Well principles.
As a matter of fact, we meet with important community partners, including the park and recreation leaders at a round table lunch long before we even open a new store here in my division. We value the relationships that we build with great folks like the people dedicated to keeping parks and trails available in our communities. One of the local trails has a walking series and most recently they offered a raffle drawing with the walkers who meet regularly in the evening. We provided the prize for this raffle, a simple example of how we tie back into the store and our messaging.
What was your favorite part of the program?
My favorite part of the program is that it provides a connection for our own employees to get out on the trails in their own communities. Quite often we have employees who relocate from other stores within the company to help open new stores, a lot from upstate New York, and this is a great way for them to have fun living healthy with their own families as they settle here in Maryland.
On a more personal note, living in Annapolis, bringing the Passport program to Anne Arundel County and making this connection in my own local community stands out as a favorite moment. The ribbon cutting ceremony was very touching as we stood with the Naval Academy behind us in a park where I have memories of enjoying picnics by the water with my daughters when they were very young.
Any ideas how you will keep the momentum going as the school year starts and temperatures begin to drop?
We stay closely connected with the Park and Recreation Departments in the Passport communities. For example, in Anne Arundel County, the Rec and Parks Community Outreach Coordinator makes sure to involve us in their race series called “Move More” throughout the entire year. We bring water and fruit and granola bars, and quite often will rally a team of Wegmans employees to participate in the race events. Some employees will walk or run in their sporty Wegmans jerseys, and some will enjoy volunteering at the finish line to make sure everyone has healthy snacks and water.
Currently we are looking to host a dual event in the near future to promote nutrition and fitness. As the popularity of the race series, walking groups and Passport programs continues to grow, we see great turnout at these fun and family friendly events!