Heart Association Program Encourages Healthy Home Cooking
The American Heart Association, with the help of food service provider Aramark, launched a program to help single mothers prepare healthier meals for their households.
A new program from the American Heart Association (AHA) and food service provider Aramark aims to promote healthy eating and cooking among underserved communities.
The 12-week pilot program, which focuses on single-mother or single-guardian households, will launch in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Houston and provide training in preparing healthier meals at home as well as track attitudes and behaviors regarding food and health among this population.
“The program is custom-tailored to a community to make health impacts through culturally relevant and family-centric cooking as well as having a curriculum-based nutrition education, which focuses on teaching easy ways to make healthier, easier, and more affordable meals,” AHA’s Senior Vice President of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation Kim Stitzel said.
Through lesson plans, hands-on activities, group discussions, and progress reports, the curriculum will cover well-being and how eating healthy promotes heart health, healthy recipes and basic cooking skills, smart shopping through budgeting and creating grocery lists, and gardening in order to incorporate homegrown fruits and vegetables into meals.
The two groups created the program as part of their larger Healthy for Life 20 By 20 initiative to fight heart disease through healthier eating nationwide. The initiative started with Aramark introducing healthier menus—lowering sodium and salt content while increasing fruit, vegetable, and whole-grain portions—at the locations where the organization provides services.
“We continue to make measurable progress with Healthy for Life 20 By 20 and are excited to launch this next important phase of the initiative to help build a culture of health at the individual, community, and national levels,” Aramark Chairman, President, and CEO Eric J. Foss said in a statement. “Our goal is to use the learnings from this pilot program to impact the health and well-being of tens of thousands of families in underserved communities across the country.”
Aramark’s community-based partners Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Inc., Episcopal Community Services, Federation of Neighborhood Centers in Philadelphia, Casa Central in Chicago, and Neighborhood Centers in Houston will act as liaisons between the AHA and the local populations by bringing in people to participate in the free program.
Once the program is rolled out nationwide, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities will help connect AHA with communities. The behavioral and attitudinal research AHA will perform during the pilot—looking at if the population is interested in cooking, how it feels about cooking, if it finds cooking easy to do, and what it deems important when cooking—will help the association make adjustments to the program before expanding it.
“Underserved communities tend to have the highest rates of obesity and the highest healthcare costs and suffer some of the most health inequities, and therefore, we want to be able to help these folks live healthier, happier lives,” Stitzel said. “People who are able to cook healthy at home tend to eat healthier as well, which leads to heart healthier lives, so we really want to reach those who are in the most need of AHA and Aramark to improve their lives.”