At Aramark, access to healthy food is always on the menu

Aramark logoFood service company Aramark doesn’t think health equity should be served à la carte. Instead, Aramark believes all people should have access to healthy, nutritious foods.

“We approach health from a 360-degree perspective, leveraging all of the knowledge and experience of our chefs, dietitians and other experts to enable the health and well-being of the millions of people we serve every day,” said Dan Wainfan, Aramark’s Vice President for Health, Wellness and Nutrition.

“As part of our work together with the American Heart Association, we have been focused on creating a culture of health at the individual, community and national levels through healthy menu innovation and deep collaboration and innovation in the areas of consumer, community and employee health.”

Our chefs and menu developers take a holistic approach, pursuing a variety of healthy menu impact strategies—designing new menus, creating new recipes, improving existing favorites, and sourcing ingredients that help us achieve our goals. Aramark launched a major Plant-Forward initiative to elevate the role of healthy ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and other plant-based ingredients on menus available in thousands of schools, hospitals, universities and workplaces across the United States.

“As part of our mission of doing great things for our people, partners, community and planet we work to empower healthy choices for all, which is why we view health and health equity as central to what we do every day” added Wainfan.

Founded in 1936, Philadelphia-based Aramark provides food, facilities, and uniform services globally to schools, businesses, and health care centers. Aramark’s CEO, John Zillmer, is a member of the American Heart Association’s CEO Roundtable. This group of nearly 50 CEOs is dedicated to healthier workplaces and communities and is committed to understanding and eliminating health inequities.

Since 2015, Aramark has partnered with the AHA on Healthy for Life®, a nutrition education resource that helps individuals and families make smart choices around food and lifestyle.

“Through Healthy for Life, we help people in our communities explore new ways to shop for and prepare healthy foods,” said Jami Leveen, Aramark’s Vice President for Community Partnerships. Healthy for Life is a free educational experience available in English and Spanish that includes tips such as how to grow your own herbs and vegetables and includes recipes that teach kids about nutrition at an early age. Healthy for Life expanded during the pandemic with a selection of videos and improved online access to information about healthy eating, Leveen said.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into designing the program for the widest possible audience of community leaders, families, nonprofit organizations, employees and community members,” Leveen said. “Aramark is committed to helping everyone make a healthy difference at home for themselves and their families.”

The company also launched an initiative called Feed Your Potential 365, which promotes healthy living for employees, customers and their families. The program’s website and social media channels offer nutritional news, recipe ideas, chef tips and educational information on physical and emotional well-being. “With people living on their phones and devices more and more, we need to reach them through digital experiences they can access 24/7” said Wainfan.

With the support of the company’s 1,000 chefs and 750 dietitians across the country, Aramark’s health and wellbeing programs connect with our clients and customers in all the places where we serve.

“We highlight the cultural heritage of our individual chefs,” Wainfan said. “With food comes celebration and stories. So, we feature our chefs’ favorite recipes and show how they’ve contemporized those recipes to make them healthier. And we also share that with our customers through our digital channels. Our customers really enjoy learning about the chefs and dietitians, seeing their recipes and relating to their broad, diverse stories.”

Aramark’s health equity goals are equally ambitious at sites where food is served.

The company has fine-tuned its menus to reduce calories, saturated fat and sodium by an average of 20%, while significantly increasing its offering of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. With the company’s commitment to plant-based food, over 30% of its main dishes are now vegetarian, vegan or include only small amounts of animal protein, Wainfan said.

The company also prides itself on tackling the complex issue of food insecurity, which is the lack of access to nutritious and affordable foods. Aramark works with local food pantries, donates surplus prepared food and partners with Swipe Out Hunger, a national nonprofit that lets college students donate meals to their food-insecure peers on campus.

“Food insecurity is a fundamental health equity issue,” Leveen said. “There is not one answer to solve the problem. We continue to build on the work we’ve done and look for new ways to make sure people have access to healthy food at every stage of life.”

Editor’s Note: Health Equity at Work highlights efforts underway at companies in the CEO Roundtable. However, the American Heart Association does not endorse or promote products or services from Aramark or any other organization. Comments and opinions expressed in this editorial by people outside the Association do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Association.