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Improving Health Equity in Our Communities

Health & Wellness |  3.9.2021

Access to good nutrition is critical for healthy living. That’s why we are committed to creating industry-leading health and wellness solutions for our customers and our communities. Ensuring health equity and wellbeing for millions is central to our purpose—and with more than 700 dietitians and over 1,000 chefs on staff, we have the knowledge, expertise, and capability to support healthy lifestyles.

For nearly a decade, these efforts have taken shape through our innovative Healthy for Life initiative. “Aramark first created Healthy for Life as our comprehensive and integrated approach to health and wellbeing,” says Dan Wainfan, Vice President of Health, Wellness and Nutrition. “We wanted to do more than just provide a single health and wellness solution. We wanted to proactively support a culture of health and wellbeing.”

Since we launched Healthy for Life, our focus has been on empowering healthy living. We accomplish this through our menus, our consumer engagement initiatives, our employee wellness programs, and by reaching out to the communities where we live and work to increase access to healthy foods and nutrition education.

Volunteer facilitators, many of whom are Aramark employees, bring the Healthy for Life program to life.
Community outreach programs have been an essential part of Healthy for Life from the beginning, bringing nutrition education and healthy cooking experiences to communities in need. For the past five years, thanks to our close collaboration with the American Heart Association, our community health initiatives have expanded to reach even more people with enhanced resources and an innovative new curriculum.

A Fruitful Collaboration

In 2015 we teamed up with the American Heart Association to take Healthy for Life to the next level.

“With such widespread nutrition and health challenges being faced by so many in the U.S., and increasingly worldwide, we recognized an opportunity to create a new collaborative approach,” says Wainfan. “By aligning the reach and resources of the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, and Aramark, the largest U.S.-based food services provider—we knew we had a powerful health impact opportunity.”

"By aligning the reach and resources of the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, and Aramark, the largest U.S.-based food services provider—we knew we had a powerful health impact opportunity."
- Dan Wainfan, Vice President, Brand Health, Wellness and Nutrition

Healthy for Life emerged as an innovative model that delivers exciting results. A major component of this initiative is the community health engagement program, featuring nutrition education and cooking skills-building curriculum, now implemented in nearly 90 U.S. cities.

Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, the American Heart Association’s chief medical officer for prevention, adds, “We are proud that Healthy For Life is helping us further our commitment to drive equity and enable a full, healthy life for everyone.”

Inspiring Families and Individuals  

The Healthy for Life community nutrition education resources are designed to inspire families and individuals to discover, choose, and prepare healthy food. Gaps in knowledge, skills, and resources can pose a barrier to healthy lifestyles. If someone lives in a food desert or lacks resources to an adequate supply of nutritious food, it affects their ability to make healthy lifestyle choices. Healthy for Life aims to fill some of those gaps by providing skill-based education and resources.

“In its simplest terms, addressing health equity means increasing opportunities for everyone to live the healthiest life possible,” explains Jami Leveen, Vice President of Community Partnerships.

The educational experiences give a basic understanding of overall wellbeing, grocery shopping, neighborhood gardening, globally inspired cooking, and kitchen skills. From “Cholesterol and Blood Sugar” to “The Power of Plant-Based Eating,” the curriculum covers a lot of important ground.

With 39 total modules, the Healthy for Life curriculum helps participants change their relationships with food and nutrition. 

The experiences leverage Aramark and the American Heart Association’s shared expertise to help people change their relationships with food and nutrition. Volunteer facilitators, including Aramark employees, bring the program to life. During the interactive sessions, participants watch live demonstrations and have the chance to try the skills themselves, so they can be comfortable recreating them at home.

“Our research shows people learn better when they have the opportunity to be hands-on and build rapport with other people,” asserts Leveen. “We designed the classes to be interactive, fun and rewarding.”

The Healthy for Life educational experiences are delivered through community organizations across the U.S..

Every Healthy for Life educational experience goes through an evaluation and feedback process so Aramark and the American Heart Association can assess behavioral impact. For example, participants have reported eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and feeling more confident about making healthier shopping and cooking decisions at home. Those who joined four or more sessions reported the highest gains.

To date, the turnkey yet flexible curriculum has been delivered through more than 800 community organizations nationwide. Community leaders can choose among 39 experiences and a wide array of additional resources such as videos, infographics, recipes, and handouts.

A Case Study in Dallas

The Buckner Family Hope Center in Dallas, Texas, was one of the first organizations to host Healthy for Life. The program met a gaping need and was the first of its kind to model healthier choices for people experiencing poverty, family issues, and a lack of services. The educational experiences resonated with their residents, many of whom believed healthy eating was out of reach for them financially. The nutrition and cooking programs have given them a new way to think about what they eat, how they grocery shop, and how to prepare meals at home.

"We were inspired to participate in the Healthy for Life program because we felt it was a great fit and would holistically meet the needs of both individuals and their families."
- Sherri Cotterell, Family Coach at Buckner Children and Family Services

“We were inspired to participate in the Healthy for Life program because we felt it was a great fit and would holistically meet the needs of both individuals and their families,” shares Sherri Cottrell, Family Coach at Buckner Children and Family Services. “Healthy for Life has shown them that they can be healthy without breaking their budget.”

The Buckner community has responded well to the online environment. With complimentary e-gift cards, residents could purchase the grocery items necessary to follow along with the video lessons. “The participants have expressed many times how grateful they were that Buckner offered these educational experiences virtually,” Cottrell shares.

Healthy for Life—for Everyone

Dallas is one of hundreds of communities where Healthy for Life is helping advance health equity through nutrition education. “We believe that every single person deserves to live a long, healthy life,” says Dr. Sanchez. “We are on a mission to be champions for health equity and to dismantle, remove, or negate anything that gets in the way of us getting to equity.”

Since its inception, this multifaceted platform has made headway toward better health for the people we reach. “To make a lasting difference in population health, we are intent on thinking about the food environment, consumer engagement, community support, and our employees all at once,” Wainfan says.

Adds Leveen: “The nutrition education we’re doing through Healthy for Life is part of a much larger, more interconnected web of efforts to generate positive impact on our communities.”