As the holidays approach, most people have a renewed focus on giving back to their communities – and rightly so. Inconsistent access to food is a growing health issue throughout the U.S. from underserved communities to college campuses. As a food company, we feel a close connection to this issue – as do many of our clients.
Here at Aramark, we’ve developed a few different solutions to address the many factors that impact access to healthy food for individuals and families on a daily basis. In addition to donating excess prepared food, hosting food drives and volunteering throughout the year, we help inspire healthy eating by providing wellness and nutrition education to consumers and local communities. To get a better idea of how we put these programs into motion, we talked with Jami Leveen, Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships, and Dan Wainfan who leads health and wellness for Aramark.
Healthy For Life 20 by 20®, one of our flagship initiatives with the American Heart Association (AHA), is a unique commitment to improve the health of all Americans 20 percent by 2020. Together, we designed an educational curriculum aimed at inspiring individuals and families to discover, choose, and prepare healthy foods. With our chefs and dietitians, and the AHA’s health and wellness know-how, this collaboration is at the root of many of our education-based programs within communities.
Our chefs and dietitians, in collaboration with community organizations, lead health education events including cooking demonstrations, healthy food tastings, and nutrition workshops. It all starts with changing the way one individual thinks about food. By helping participants prioritize healthy foods and preparation techniques and boosting their skills and confidence, we’re able to have a positive ripple effect not just on the individual, but on their family and even their community’s health.
Our commitment to serve both consumers nationwide and the surrounding communities we operate in led us to create the Feed Your Potential 365 (FYP) campaign. Through this digital platform our chefs and dietitians, in collaboration with experts from the American Heart Association, share healthy tips and recipes to nearly 100,000 subscribers. Another side of this effort are local FYP 365 Clubs, where we leverage the expertise of our chefs and dietitians to help individuals connect healthy eating with their ability to reach their potential.
This community engagement is an extension of year-round efforts that place importance on hands-on relationships within communities. By working with underserved communities, we learn what’s needed and can tailor solutions to help meet challenges. For example, some communities need gardens to increase access to fresh produce while others need nutrition education to help community members learn to read package labels. The educational experiences bridge the gap between knowing you need to be healthier and actually having the knowledge, skills, and confidence to be able to live healthier.
“The clubs are focused on boosting confidence and knowledge so participants feel more comfortable identifying and preparing healthy food at home for themselves and their families,” says Leveen. Once the programs have been tested and proven successful in the FYP 365 Club environment, we’re able to scale it across the country. As part of our collaboration with the AHA, these efforts have expanded to 40 cities nationwide. Since 2015, our community efforts have impacted over 14,000 people.
“What’s unique about our FYP Clubs is that people aren’t just attending for one class but are forming relationships with other members of their community, and having multiple ‘Healthy for Life’ experiences over weeks and months. That ongoing and hands-on education has lasting impact,” adds Dan Wainfan.
Participants from a club in Dallas expressed that they had been wanting to eat healthier but were lacking the information and education needed to get started. Others called out that the program was just what they needed, especially for their children. “Our employees across the country are proud to participate and to help moms, dads, and caregivers discover what healthy food can do in the communities near where they live and work,” notes Wainfan.
Many community centers offer food pantries as part of their services in underserved communities. Keeping these pantries stocked with non-perishable packaged goods is important but residents also struggle with access to fresh produce. Knowing this, we tried something new this year. “While traditional drives are great for non-perishable foods, community centers also need fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy. However, coordinating onsite storage, delivery, and distribution comes with a lot more obstacles,” says Leveen.
In September 2018, we worked with #GiveHealthy to host a fresh food drive and virtual shopping experience. Participants were able to “shop” online for fresh fruits and vegetables from potatoes, apples, carrots, bananas, and eggs, and have them delivered directly to participating community centers based on customized delivery schedules. #GiveHealthy picks up the fresh food and delivers it to the center, after they’ve worked with the community centers to align on specifics about all the operational details.
We also work with many local community organizations to donate leftover prepared food. By working with the Food Donation Connection and other hunger relief organizations we are able to provide unused, unserved food to qualified non-profit organizations in a safe and reliable manner. Our food donation process minimizes waste and feeds those in need, helping the environment and our communities.
As a company we have a responsibility and deep passion for giving back to our local communities and feeding the hungry. We are proud to share our expertise to empower communities to learn how to shop for and prepare healthy food in their daily lives.