The biggest challenge is in encouraging people to think of health and wellness as lots of little steps, instead of one silver bullet.
By Bev Dribin, Vice President, Community Relations, Aramark
Recently, thousands of employees from Aramark teamed up for our first Global Volunteer Day.
Aramark provides food services plus facilities maintenance and uniforms at places you frequent every day – businesses, sports venues, schools, colleges, and hospitals to name a few. We're in the people business, and the inaugural Day was created to celebrate our commitment to enriching and nourishing the lives we touch and offer our employees globally an opportunity to make a positive impact.
Our theme: Inspiring Kids to Be Healthy for Life.
Our ambitious goal: to make a significant impact on the health and well-being of children and families and help them lead healthier lifestyles. They say only ambitious goals lead to making the impossible possible. In one day, our employees were able to provide 25,000 hours of service through 100 volunteer projects in 14 countries impacting more than 500,000 families.
From creating thousands of healthy meal kits and snack packs for distribution to low-income families and nearly 100 community gardens for growing healthy food to collecting more than 750 pieces of sports equipment and refurbishing 40 play facilities, the projects were diverse and challenged our employees' skills, creativity and strength. Leveraging the expertise of our dietitians and chefs, other employees took to awareness building, teaching families about nutrition and healthy eating choices.
Dan Wainfan, Associate Vice President for Health and Wellness at Aramark was one of the dedicated volunteers that day – and I sat down for a chat with him about the challenges people face in living healthy lives, what he thinks are the most promising solutions, and how Aramark employees are applying them to address the issues.
What inspired you to get involved in health and wellness?
I was a “hamburger, French fries and cherry Coke” kind of kid. It wasn’t until I went to college and experienced “all you can eat” options that I realized I’d need to start making some good decisions about what I ate. I think that was the first time I started to think about people making healthy choices.
Interestingly, my personal experience ties back to the need for creating healthy environments on college campuses, which is where we first introduced Healthy For Life™, our integrated approach to health and wellness, which combines healthy food, nutrition education and wellness programs that work together to support healthier lifestyles. Global Volunteer Day offered us an opportunity to expand Healthy For Life into our communities as well.
What challenges does a company like Aramark face in helping people pursue healthy lifestyles?
The biggest challenge is in encouraging people to think of health and wellness as lots of little steps, instead of one silver bullet. Health and wellness isn’t about one single diet or one single food group that is going to change your life. It’s about combining many simple steps. Different people need to take different steps – it’s all about finding what the right steps are for you.
What are the most promising solutions you're seeing in the work you do?
Providing people with practical, usable, realistic steps, both in terms of food choices and in terms of information. You have to give people bite-sized information, whether it’s a nutritional fact or a sample of a seasonal vegetable they’ve never tried before. It’s the little things that change the way people think.
How are communities responding?
We’re seeing more health and wellness supporters across communities who are working hard to build engagement and collaborate with key businesses, governments and other players. These supporters might be a teacher, parent or student seeking more healthy alternatives on the school lunch menu, a community health and wellness expert at a neighborhood community organization who educates families about nutrition, or a local Aramark employee volunteering with his colleagues to create a place where children can enjoy active play.
Where we can play a crucial role is by providing these supporters with expertise and resources – from informational newsletters to dietitian- or chef-led workshops and cooking demonstrations. By supporting and engaging these community advocates, together we help empower entire communities.
What do you think inspires Aramark chefs and dietitians to volunteer?
We are very much a people business. We all have a passion for service. Our chefs and dietitians have a great deal of pride and satisfaction in knowing they have the experience, education and skills to help people. For them, going out to share that information one-on-one and changing lives is enormously gratifying. They are proud of what they know, and people appreciate their expertise. That’s a reward that makes them want to volunteer again and again.
Our chefs and dietitians also love to work together. Chefs enjoy sharing their love of food and dietitians love bringing their expertise to help people. When they are paired up, terrific things happen.
What’s your favorite story?
On Global Volunteer Day, a team of Aramark dietitians and chefs paired up at our community partner Casa Central in Chicago to work with preschoolers and their families to prepare a healthy meal of breakfast tacos. Together, the dietitians and chefs asked the children to “Eat A Rainbow” – as part of the food preparation, the children were encouraged to try red and yellow peppers, cilantro, limes, green onions, tomatoes, purple cabbage, black beans and Greek yogurt.
At the end of the day, one mom told us that her five-year-old son enjoyed the Greek yogurt so much that he asked if they could stop at the store on the way home to purchase some. It was a little thing for a little boy, but it’s a perfect example of how our chefs and dietitians bring their enthusiasm, expertise and knowledge to inspire children and their families to take steps to healthier living.