Members See Positive Effects of Wellness Program


June 2014


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The SIU’s new health and wellness program is underway, and members have begun to reap the benefits.


 From holding its first health fair at the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education (PHC) in Piney Point, Md., to developing healthy options for members at sea, the SIU has taken major steps when it comes to promoting health and wellness among its membership.


“We are really excited about the things we’re working on and where we see this thing going,” SIU Plans Administrator Maggie Bowen said during a meeting on the wellness program. “We are really trying to organize this from the whole industry perspective.”


That effort included the April 28 wellness fair and a meeting later that week to chart the progress in educating members and providing healthier meal options.


For the Piney Point health fair, the SIU partnered with a local hospital to provide screenings for blood pressure, glucose, BMI calculations and cholesterol. Members also had access to health-related vendors, recipe demonstrations and exercise classes.


“The members who attended were enthusiastic about the information that was presented to them,” Bowen said during her report at the May membership meeting. “We hope to be able to continue with these types of events in many of the local halls.”


In addition to the health fair, officials met at the PHC to discuss plans to revitalize food and cooking strategies. Seafarers, in fact, may soon notice some healthy changes when they head to the cafeteria for a bite to eat.


From prominently placed salad bars and an increase in healthy offerings, to the addition of tools and information designed to promote health-conscious choices, Seafarers will have an array of new opportunities to stay on top of their health while at sea.


It’s all part of an effort that provides access to healthy options while not placing any burdens on individual Seafarers. Traditional fare will remain on the menu and no one will be required to go on a diet.


Wellness Coordinator Janet Nolan said food was the perfect place to start since a poor diet is linked to health issues like obesity, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure. Educating members and providing healthy options, she said, could make a world of difference.


“Food is wellness and we are looking to embrace that,” Nolan said. “We have to make people want to come and eat and gain that credibility. We did changes in meal planning, recipe testing, purchasing and we enhanced the (food) presentation. We hear people saying, ‘you’ve got to try this. And that’s the hook.”


PHC instructor John Dobson, who worked on the program’s food guidelines, said his main focus was on calories, sugar, salt and fats. The key is training cooks to keep the meals tasting good while preventing high fat, sugar and calorie counts.


“By focusing on those areas, we can develop (cooking class) curriculum,” Dobson said. “It’s important that the menus we teach our students offer healthy options. It’s not that we can’t serve things that are fattening, but it can’t be everything.”


The point, he added, was not to force people to eat certain things, but inform them about what they are putting into their bodies while also providing healthy alternatives.


“A healthier membership is a happier membership,” Dobson said. “We can’t control what people do, but we can inform them of the dangers of some of the things they do. A lot of people just don’t know.”


One of the key factors in helping members make those healthy choices is menu planning. PHC Executive Chef John Hetmanski, who worked on menu planning, said that process is all about communication.


“The menu itself is really a cooperative effort,” he said. “We really need to open up communication and develop what direction we want to go into.”


He added that the school would start teaching cooks and stewards to develop menus that included healthier options, while also focusing on what works and what doesn’t. That strategy includes developing a calendar of recipes that rotate over a shorter time frame.


“We came up with a two-week (menu) cycle here in Piney Point. Previously, it was 30 days,” Hetmanski said. “Putting it in that format gives us an ability to look at it objectively. We can get more favorites in there and things we enjoy.”


Echoing earlier statements, Hetmanski said the strategy inevitably comes down to offering options. Healthy food won’t be required eating, though access to it will increase.


 “The underlining tone here is choice,” he said.“As we educate and communicate with them, that healthy choice is going to be there.”


Working to make sure every choice is appetizing is instructor Robert Johnson. He’s been busy with menu testing and discussed the taste test form used to gauge opinions on different recipes. Rating those recipes based on presentation, taste, texture and smell, the testing process will help determine what should end up in SIU galleys.


“Through that process we can develop better recipes,” Johnson said. “And if it’s successful we can go ahead and put that recipe in production.”


While the recipes would include some healthy offerings, Johnson said it was important to note that it wouldn’t be a buffet of flavorless meals.


“We are not saying everyone has to eat water and oatmeal. We are not saying everyone should be on a diet,” he said. “We just want the members to be educated.”


SIU Vice President Contracts George Tricker said that approach is important.


“We have to create a culture where we give the mariners a choice,” he said. “When they make those choices they will know if they are ordering something that’s healthy for them or not healthy for them.”


Discussing the wide-reaching benefits of having such a wellness program in place was Crowley Managing Director for Marine Personnel Margaret Reasoner.


SIU-contracted Crowley – which was just named one of America’s healthiest companies by Interactive Health – has joined with the SIU to help develop an industry-wide wellness program. The benefits of a healthy membership, Reasoner said, are enormous. Since starting its wellness program, Crowley has experienced higher productivity, improved morale and a reduction in health-related costs and expenses.


“Because we share the same group of people, it will be nice that we are all on the same page,” Reasoner said, discussing an industry-wide wellness program. “It’s a good thing to do, and it’s not hard. It’s just that most of us don’t know.”


SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel agreed, adding that having the union and companies on the same health-related page is vital to the program’s success.


“It’s important everybody is on board,” he said. “We don’t all have to have the same policies, but it’s important we are all pushing toward the same direction.”


Ultimately, Nolan said, it comes down to education, healthy options and members making a decision to take control of their health. “We are not going to force anything on them, but we will help them make good decisions,” she said.



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Health & Wellness Mission Statement


“Our goal is to create a wellness platform that promotes a healthy environment at sea and ashore. Through collective efforts with industry partners, we strive to educate and empower every mariner to embrace this program and realize the benefits of healthy living not only today, but well into a rewarding retirement. We are 100 percent committed to the wellbeing of each and every Seafarer.”


Healthy Recipes


Garlic Herb Pork Loin

  • 1 boneless pork loin n 6 whole garlic cloves

  • 2 tbsp. thyme leaves n 2 tbsp. rosemary leaves

  • 2 tbsp. cracked black pepper

  • 1 tsp. kosher salt


Place meat fat-side up on rack in open roasting pan. Make small cuts into pork loin and insert garlic cloves. Mix remaining ingredients together and rub over pork. Bake at 325º for one to one and one-half hours or until internal temperature is 145 º for four minutes. Slice and serve with pan au jus.


Quinoa Tabbouleh

  • 1 cup quinoa

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 cup cooked black beans

  • 1 small cucumber – peeled, seeded, chopped

  • 1 small sweet red pepper, chopped

  • 1/3 cup fresh minced parsley

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice n 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt n ½ tsp. black pepper


Boil water, add quinoa, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and transfer into a bowl. Allow food to cool completely. Add beans, cucumber, pepper and parsley. Whisk remaining ingredients together, drizzle over salad and refrigerate until chilled. Serve.