One of the country’s top food service providers has cut by 8 percent the calories, sodium and saturated fats on the menus it provides to colleges, universities, hospital cafes and workplaces.
The news from Aramark is part of the first-year report on progress for Healthy for Life 20 By 20, a five-year joint initiative launched last year with the American Heart Association that aims to improve the health of consumers across the United States by 20 percent by the year 2020. The joint project impacts the more than 2 billion meals Aramark serves annually and focuses on engaging the community through consumer and employee health awareness and education.
The 8 percent drop is about double the anticipated 3 percent to 5 percent target set for the first year. That drop also was accompanied by an increase in fruit, vegetable and whole grain choices on menus. More than 30 percent of main dishes are now vegetarian or vegan, while more than 10 percent have whole grains as a leading ingredient.
The initiative hopes to “create a culture of health for all Americans, with a keen focus on helping families and underserved communities,” said Eric J. Foss, Aramark’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “We are extremely pleased with the progress our teams have made together, and are focused on continuing this innovative work and breakthrough collaboration in support of our shared goals to help people lead healthier lives.”
Earlier this year, AHA and Aramark ran a pilot program at five community centers to encourage positive food and health changes among participants, primarily single moms and others responsible for providing family meals. The 12-week program found:
- 69 percent increased fruit and vegetable consumption by at least half a serving a day.
- 48 percent increased whole grain consumption by at least one serving.
- Increased, on average, fruit and vegetable consumption by one cup a day, which is about two servings.
According to the AHA, 72 percent of U.S. adults have a poor diet and more than two-thirds are overweight or obese.
“We’re delighted with the progress we have collectively made in the past year,” said Nancy Brown, the AHA’s chief executive officer. “This proves that our work is truly advancing the health of Americans and we look forward to continuing this great work in the coming years.”
In this second year of the project, in addition to more menu changes and consumer awareness work, Aramark and the AHA plan to expand the community program, adding more health centers in other cities and focusing on interactive nutrition and wellness programs that focus on long-term health impacts.