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CDC Garden Market Example

This section describes the Garden Market demonstration project at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the lessons learned from that experience. The Garden Market was so successful that it continues at its original location and has been added at other CDC locations. We hope others can benefit from some of our "lessons learned." The information is organized according to the project phases and includes the following topics:

Need and Interest Assessment

We held two focus groups with employees to explore interest in the garden market idea. We recruited participants by posting sign-up sheets in visible locations and informally asking employees to participate. We involved staff from multiple buildings, departments, and job descriptions. A member of the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Communication team (NuPAC) served as moderator for the focus groups. We used the Focus Group Moderator's Guide [PDF-142k] to question employees about their preferred days, times, and locations. We also asked employees about possible names for the garden market and preferred methods of communication.

Based on the focus group input, we made the following operating decisions:

  • Employees preferred a mid-week day so they could supplement their weekend shopping with fresh produce; we selected Wednesday as our day of operation.
  • Employees preferred the times during lunch and after work; we selected 10:00 am to 5:00 pm as the hours of operation.

Based on the input, we also developed communication materials (posters, flyers, and emails), and the CDC Garden Market was started.

Planning Process

As we planned the market, we made the following decisions about location, legal considerations, and vendor selection.

people at the garden marketLocation
We decided to locate the Garden Market at the back of a parking lot that is usually not occupied. Our Security and Property Management offices approved the location, and the Garden Market staff deemed it a reasonable distance for employees to travel.

Legal Considerations
Because CDC is a federal agency, we are required to comply with many federal government regulations. We consulted the CDC Office of the General Counsel (OGC) about the procedures we needed to follow for the following activities:

  • Vendor selection
  • Procurement procedures
  • Contractual agreement with the vendor

Vendor Selection
Our first step in selecting a vendor was to comply with the Randolph-Sheppard Act. To do so, we approached the blind cooperative member at our location to assess their interest in becoming the Garden Market vendor. The member chose not to participate and agreed to sign a Letter of Agreement with Cooperative Service for the Blind [PDF-57k] which allowed us to approach other vendors.

Our next step was to work with the Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Program to select a local produce vendor who complied with bidding and security regulations for federal agencies and who met our other criteria.

Promotion Plan

garden market signTo promote the grand opening of the Garden Market, we distributed posters (22" x 27") and sent e-mail announcements to employees. They were effective methods of advertising, based on the attendance results. More than 300 people attended the first day, about 25% of the CDC employees on that campus.

Now that the Garden Market is established, we encourage employees to continue shopping for produce at the Garden Market by promoting it in the following ways:

  • Send a reminder e-mail the day before the Garden Market which includes special-of-the-day items with prices and links to Web-based recipes that use the featured items.
  • Locate posters (22"x27") in the lobby of each building and post numerous Promotional Flyers [PDF-62k] (8.5"X11"), both with the same design.
  • Change the poster/flyer design periodically to avoid having the poster become "wallpaper" and not be noticed by employees.

We also held a special "First Anniversary" promotion to celebrate the Garden Market success.

Garden Markets Begin at CDC

The key components of implementing the Garden Market were establishing a budget, assigning promotion activities to staff members, and preparing for the opening day.

The Garden Market program at CDC has been very economical, with revenue to the vendor supplied entirely by sales of produce. The main operating expense has been approximately $1200 for in-house marketing materials (200 8.5"X11"color flyers and 20 22"X28" color posters).

The staff resources required to implement the Garden Market were

  • Two staff members for 30 hours a week for 4 months to develop and implement all aspects of the demonstration project.
  • Support from in-house graphic designers, printing staff, legal counsel, administrators, and communication staff.
  • One staff member at the Garden Market (7 hours a day, 1 day a week for the first 8 weeks) to collect usage data, distribute evaluation forms, and generally assist with the Garden Market.

Now that the Garden Market is established, its operation requires less staff time each week. A small amount of staff time is still required staff time to send promotional e-mails, occasionally assist with setup, and manage unexpected problems, such as weather delays.

The First Day
Our staff and the vendor arrived at the site one hour before opening to make sure the location was ready, to uncrate produce, and to arrange signs.

We learned the following lessons the first day:

  • fresh fruitThe price for each product needs to be clearly displayed.
  • Adequate water should be available for the vendor and program staff. Additionally, the vendor and staff need access to shade, sunscreen, and hats where appropriate. (Note: Under some circumstances, items such as sunscreen and hats could be considered gifts to employees, and federal agencies are prohibited from purchasing gifts for employees with appropriated funds. Check with your legal counsel for more information.)
  • Bathroom breaks and other breaks need to be scheduled for everyone working the Garden Market. The first day was so popular that the vendor didn't have time to eat lunch.

Evaluation Process

Because the Garden Market was a demonstration/pilot project at CDC, we conducted an initial evaluation after the first eight weeks of operation. Our data sources were informal comments made by employees and sales data from the vendor's cash register.

Employees provided many constructive comments and a lot of praise for the program. Some of the positive comments we received were

  • Several employees stated the Garden Market had a positive impact on their own fruit and vegetable consumption as well as their family's.
  • One employee switched from popcorn to fruit as her mid-afternoon snack.
  • One employee restricted her children to one cookie a day because she now has better access to fresh fruits and vegetables. She said her children were excited about Garden Market day because they knew she would bring home fresh fruits.
  • CDC retirees and community members without direct affiliation with CDC told us that the Garden Market helped them increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables. (Security at some facilities may prohibit non-employees from shopping at a CDC Garden Market.)

After several months we conducted a second round of focus groups to get feedback from two groups

  • Employees who regularly attend the market
  • Employees who rarely or never attend the market

We recruited participants by calling every sixth employee in the phone directory. Focus groups were recruited on the basis of gender and race/ethnicity to determine if there were differences in opinions about the market among cultural groups. Based on that feedback, we made adjustments to the Garden Market in the following areas:

  • Improved Informational Signs [PDF-61k] at the Garden Market location.
  • Requested the vendor to offer a more diverse selection of fruits and vegetables, including ones that appeal to different cultural groups or genders.
  • Asked the vendor to add organic and/or locally grown produce.

The Garden Market evaluation would have been more comprehensive if we had assessed employee self-reported fruit and vegetable consumption both before and after the Garden Market opening. However, we did not do this. We will evaluate the market's operation on an ongoing basis within the guidelines of program evaluation at CDC.

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