November 30, 2020

HEALTHY FOR LIFE: MaxYield Earns “Healthiest Employer” Award


Diane Streit (center), MaxYield’s human resources director, accepted MaxYield’s Healthiest Employers of Iowa award from Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds (left) and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad at a ceremony in June in Cedar Rapids.

When MaxYield Cooperative started its wellness program in 2011, Kathie Ostrander didn’t care for the idea.

“I understood why they were doing it but didn’t want to face my numbers,” said Ostrander, a MaxYield client care leader at Lakota. “After my second year of bad results and an unacceptable weight, I decided Thanksgiving week of that year that something had to give.”

While she enjoyed limited success with some weight loss methods, she decided to go for it when MaxYield offered the Naturally Slim program the next summer. “That program taught me a lot about eating and a lot about myself,” said Ostrander, who lost 87 pounds during the next two years.

While she gained 15 pounds back, Ostrander is using what she learned through MaxYield’s wellness program to start losing weight again. As she works toward her goal of losing those last pounds for a grand total of 100 pounds, Ostrander knows she’s on the right track.

“I have better cholesterol numbers, better blood pressure, and a lot less pain in my knees and feet. My overall health has improved, and my doctor is pleased. Do I have more to go? Yes. Hopefully I can get there.”

Building a culture of wellness
Ostrander is one of many success stories that have been influenced by MaxYield’s wellness program. These achievements haven’t gone unnoticed. In June of 2014, MaxYield was one of nine companies honored through the Healthiest Employers of Iowa award program, which recognizes companies throughout the state that have committed to creating a healthy workplace.

“There are a lot of things in life we don’t have control over, but we can control lifestyle choices like diet and exercise,” said Diane Streit, MaxYield’s human resources director, who accepted the award during the Iowa Association of Business and Industry’s annual conference in Cedar Rapids on June 10. “MaxYield cares about our team members, and investing in a wellness program is important to us.”

A number of factors helped MaxYield win the award in the midsized employer (100 to 249 employees) category for western Iowa, including:
Health screenings. In 2011, MaxYield began paying for nursing professionals to come on-site at several MaxYield locations to check five key risk factors for each person, including blood pressure, weight, waist circumference, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and glucose levels. MaxYield offers a $500 premium health insurance discount incentive for participating in biometric screenings.

Naturally Slim weight loss. Team members whose test results indicated high risk factors were encouraged to visit with their doctor. Starting in 2012, MaxYield also paid the fees to offer the Naturally Slim program to team members. In 2013, Naturally Slim was required for team members with three or more risk factors. The program offers an educational video and quiz on a weekly basis for 10 weeks. Team members who participate log their weight on a regular basis. “With a lot of health issues, even a small weight loss can yield big results,” said Streit, who added that MaxYield has replaced doughnuts and cookies at meetings with healthy alternatives like fruit, yogurt, and granola bars. “One of our participants who had five risk factors at the start of the Naturally Slim program had zero risk factors at the end, thanks to weight loss and a change of diet.”

Lunch-and-learn programs. MaxYield hosts several of these educational events each year and tailors the topics to team members’ interests.

Additional resources. MaxYield’s wellness program also includes personal wellness coaching sessions from a trained nurse, flu shots, smoking and tobacco cessation programs, and support for team members who want to participate in the Live Healthy Iowa 10-week challenge. “There are many stories of team members being able to cut back or eliminate medications because of
healthier lifestyles,” Streit said.

Thanks to the wellness program, MaxYield’s team members can monitor their health data from the current year and previous years to track their progress over time. Approximately 97% to 99% of MaxYield team members who are enrolled in the company’s health care program participate in MaxYield’s wellness program, said Streit, who noted that all of MaxYield’s wellness programs are offered at no charge to team members.

Living life to the fullest
Penny Marvin-Book credits the company’s wellness program with the tremendous improvement in her overall well-being in the past several years. “MaxYield has helped me become a healthier me,” said Marvin-Book, who is MaxYield’s east area controller in Belmond.

“While I had high blood pressure, was overweight, and had high bad cholesterol, all that has changed after going through MaxYield’s wellness programs.”

Today, Marvin-Book’s blood pressure is normal, she has lost the excess weight, and her blood tests are now in the normal ranges. These changes reflect a healthier lifestyle that’s worth maintaining, she added. “With the education and support from the wellness programs, I’ve been able to sustain these results for more than three years.”

Elaine Wilderman, an administrative assistant at the corporate office in West Bend, also credits MaxYield’s wellness program with her new, healthy lifestyle. “I knew I needed to lose weight, and the Naturally Slim program gave me the incentive to really get serious. I learned a whole new way of eating, which dramatically improved my numbers in my blood panels.”

Wilderman no longer suffers from back pain, can walk more than three miles a day, and feels energized by her new outlook on life. “If MaxYield hadn’t started the wellness program, I’m no sure I would have lost the weight and become healthier. The program continues to give me the incentive to keep eating right and living healthy.”

Looking forward
To keep the momentum going, MaxYield is exploring mental wellness programs for 2015, said Streit, who is excited about opportunities to enhance MaxYield’s wellness program. “I was proud to represent the ag industry and the cooperative system at the Healthiest Employers of Iowa program this summer, because we have just as much to offer as any other industry.”

Although healthier team members help MaxYield benefit in the long run through reduced health insurance claims, the primary benefit is being able to do the right thing for team members.

“It’s all about putting people first and making life better for our team members,” said Streit, who noted that the wellness program receives strong support from the board of directors, senior leadership team, and MaxYield team members. “It’s our desire that everyone at MaxYield remains healthy to enjoy their lives, and to be around for their children and grandchildren for years to come.” ■


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