Holding Healthy Meetings

Claire Mance, Healthy Communities Coordinator
Extension Dane County
University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension
(608) 224-3699

Total Time: 6:25

0:15 – What does healthy/sustainable mean in this context?
1:12 – What makes it sustainable?
2:14 – How we achieve these
4:19 – Other resources
6:14 – Lead out



Adam Wigger: “Holding healthy meetings.” We’re talking today with Claire Mance, Extension Healthy Communities Coordinator, Dane County, UW-Madison, Division of Extension, and I’m Adam Wigger. Claire you recently published a publication on the Extension Learning Store about holding healthy and sustainable meetings. What does it mean for a meeting to be healthy and sustainable?

Claire Mance: Sure. When people get together for meetings, and especially in our world of Extension, we have a lot of meetings where really people based and so we want to get together to talk things through. But what that means is that we spend a lot of our time together in meetings and that often means sitting down in a room. Other times that can mean getting together for conferences or seminars and a lot of times we provide food for those meetings, but it’s not always the healthiest option. So what we wanted to do was try to think about how to be cognizant of the different needs that we are serving. So hosting a Healthy meeting to us means providing foods that support a healthy diet pattern a healthy eating pattern and also allowing some room for activity breaks and physical activity breaks and getting up and moving around and having time to be able to move your body a little bit.

Adam Wigger: So you touched on the health aspect right there. What makes them sustainable?

Claire Mance: So that is a slightly different category and this is interesting because when I started to pole our office in what a healthy meeting means to my colleagues, what they saw was the use of so many plastic utensils and plates and things that we were throwing away in the garbage and so another aspect of this meeting that sustainability came up the issue of how we needed to be conscious of what we were doing- what we were doing in terms of practices for the earth. And so out of that came aspects of, you know, what sorts of plastic are we using should we be asking people to bring in their own water bottles so we could cut down on the plastic cups that were serving or even coffee mugs. If you’re a space that you’re meeting has the availability to or the option to use utensils and washable cups and things like that. Is that an option that you could serve those instead of single use items.

Adam Wigger: So what kinds of ways can we achieve these things?

Claire Mance: Sure. So there is a number of different things that we can do to support healthy and sustainable meetings. One is providing some different healthy meals or snack options. So a big consideration would be to provide fruits and vegetables or both, every time food is served. Others would be to consider serving whole grain options whenever possible. Also considering vegetarian options because we want to be considerate of all our different audiences who are attending our meetings things like portioning out smaller items such as baked goods or even serving fruit instead of dessert. We also want to consider the environment that were set in so making sure that we’re presenting the healthy option in an appealing way so people are more likely to choose that option and also letting people know that we are intending that we’re not using plastic cups on purpose because we’re trying to be environmentally friendly and often explaining that rationale upfront people are much more open to this idea and supporting these practices and also providing physical activity breaks. So for every three hours of sitting time, or less, providing 10 to 15 minutes of time to get around. You might also let your attendees know that they’re free to stand up during a meeting or even move about the meeting space and a lot of times that can bring more attention as well. So letting people move around will actually increase the effectiveness of your meeting and it might even shorten the time that you need to be meeting if everyone’s focused and attentive. And finally, reducing waste and packaging can happen by providing meals on platters and serving them buffet style whenever possible. Encouraging people to bring their own water bottle if you must use single serve utensils or items attempting to source compostable ones. Also thinking about cutting down on paper use – I know that’s a big one in our field. So using chalkboards, dry erase boards, and even sending out electronic communications and trying to cut down on that paper.

Adam Wigger: Yeah I know I would appreciate a healthier option because whenever I’m in a meeting I always go for that pastry, that bagel, that kind of thing. So I’ve mentioned that you can find your publication on the Extension learning store, are there any other resources available for creating meetings like this or creating an office culture like this?

Claire Mance: Sure. So I think starting the conversation in your own office – that’s how this project started – was we realized that we were serving some items that we thought we could improve upon. And so that started the conversation locally and from there we had all sorts of ideas just from within our own office of how we could improve the culture of meetings in our everyday activities here. So beyond the guidelines that we have on the learning store they were actually drawn from a number of other healthy meeting guidelines from other universities that are really fantastic. So what we wanted to do was produce something that was really short and sweet and that people could pick up, look at the tips, and try out a couple options. However if you want to go online there’s a plethora of these healthy meeting guidelines online and they even include some print outs and some templates that you can use in your own office and a whole whole host of other resources that are easily usable. I would just encourage folks who are hosting these meetings and considering food choices to also consider cultural preferences sometimes making choices that people want to eat or providing options that people want to eat helped to shift their eating patterns to a healthier food and make that easier to accomplish and also to maintain. And at the same time also considering allergies is oftentimes when you’re trying to be healthier we might offer fish or eggs or nuts as a healthier option to pastries or red meat. However, there are a number of allergies to those items so just being cognizant of that and who might be at your meeting.

Adam Wigger: Fair enough. Thank you Claire! We’ve been visiting today with Claire Mance, Extension Healthy Communities Coordinator, Dane County, UW-Madison Division of Extension, and I’m Adam Wigger.

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