Aramark, the largest U.S. food service company serving two billion meals each year and the American Heart Association, the world's leading voluntary organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke, report significant strides in delivering healthier options across the menus served to millions in colleges and universities, hospital cafes and workplace locations.
Recently released blood pressure guidelines from the American Heart Association suggest that 46 percent of Americans will now be diagnosed with high blood pressure; sodium intake remains a key risk factor for developing high blood pressure.
Aramark and the Association report that in the second year of their collaboration they've achieved a 14 percent average reduction in sodium, a 15 percent reduction in saturated fat, an 11 percent reduction in calories plus significant increases in fruits, vegetables and whole grains on the menus.
"To drive significant health impact and save lives we must think differently, and more systemically, about how we reach the most people where they are to positively influence their food choices," said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. "Our work with Aramark accelerates progress both from the meals they serve every day to the communities where they do business - and that's a powerful combination."
The year-2 health impact results released by the Association and Aramark are on track with their joint Healthy for Life 20 By 20 goal to improve the health of Americans by 2020. The five-year initiative not only includes decreasing calories, saturated fat and sodium by 20 percent and increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains by 20 percent, but also includes inspiring healthier consumer choice, supporting underserved communities and engaging 175,000 Aramark employees and AHA volunteers nationwide.
"Aramark continues to be encouraged by the meaningful reductions in sodium, calories and saturated fat we are achieving in our menus, as well as our efforts to support behavioral change in underserved communities and among our employees and the consumers we serve every day," said Eric J. Foss, Aramark's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, and member of the American Heart Association's CEO Roundtable.
Lifestyle modifications such as exercise, healthy eating, and sodium reduction are the first type of medication prescribed to reduce blood pressure. Key categories on Aramark's menus such as soups and breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees are now averaging under 500mg of sodium per serving. Aramark and the Association will continue to expand their health education programs and consumer awareness by empowering consumers to make healthy choices through a variety of resources.
The Association and Aramark have achieved the following milestones during the two years of their strategic health impact alliance:
2020 goal: Achieve a 20 percent reduction in calories, saturated fat, and sodium as well as a 20 percent increase in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in Aramark's menus, with an impact of 10 billion meals served by the year 2020. Annual target 3-5 percent reduction.
Year two progress: Aramark has reduced calories, saturated fats, and sodium by an average of 13 percent across menus served in workspaces, hospital cafes, colleges and universities exceeding the annual target of 3-5 percent.
The focus on increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains on menus continues to progress. 30 percent of the menu is now vegetarian or vegan, and fruit, vegetable and whole grain consumption is up by 5 percent in the first year of reporting for this measure.
Saturated fat levels have declined by 15 percent with approximately half of menu choices under 10 percent calories from saturated fats. Sodium levels have been reduced by 14 percent with menu categories like breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees, and soups averaging under 500 mg of sodium per serving. More than 70 percent of main dishes are now 500 calories or less.
Community Health Engagement & Education:
2020 Goal: Create health education and awareness programs in underserved communities across the U.S. to support a change in behavior and attitudes towards food and nutrition.
Year Two Progress: The Association and Aramark launched Feed Your Potential 365 to help consumers learn what healthy foods can do to feed their potential and live healthy lives. The campaign is reaching millions of consumers and launched in more than 1,000 food service locations.
After conducting a pilot in three cities, the community program is now being introduced nationwide. Activation has expanded to 26 cities and nearly 50 community centers. Participant evaluations of the program have shown positive changes in food and nutrition behaviors.