Family. Good health. A place to call home.
With November comes the chance to reflect on what we’re thankful for, and to give back to those in need.
At Aramark, we not only work in communities across the country—we live there. Our employees are passionate about helping others not just during the holidays, but year-round.
Through the Aramark Building Community (ABC) program, we match our skills with each community’s needs for the greatest impact. In one neighborhood, it could be repairing a playground. In another, it might mean a workforce readiness training. The result? Helping underserved families become healthier, stronger, and more successful.
A big part of our work is empowering people to feed their potential through better food and nutrition choices. We’re thrilled to share these first-hand stories about what it’s like to take part in these programs.
The Club Members: Taking It To Heart
Buckner International’s Family Hope Center in Dallas is home to one of our inaugural Feed Your Potential 365 (FYP365) Clubs. The twice-monthly nutrition classes, based on a curriculum developed in partnership with the American Heart Association, are as practical as they are tasty.
“The members have really taken it to heart,” says Director Cheryl Williams. “And they’re actually taking these things home and practicing what the chefs have been teaching.”
There’s a world of cooking methods beyond frying—that’s what Marilyn J. has learned. With the help of new kitchen utensils, she’s trying her hand at baking and steaming. Not only does she prefer the taste, but the healthier food helps her manage her diabetes and high blood pressure.
“The Feed Your Potential Club … teaches you how to eat better, and it shows you how to cook your food in a way that’s healthier for you,” Marilyn says.
Audra W., who also has high blood pressure, has changed her shopping habits since joining the program. She now knows what to watch out for on food labels (such as sodium, saturated fat and sugar) and shares these new insights with her family and friends.
With the right seasonings—think more herbs and spices, less salt and saturated fat—Audra can enjoy nutritious meals that still taste good.
“It’s really all about lifestyle changes.”
The Chef: Serving Up Great Taste
On the other side of the table (or counter!) are people like Mike Mantia, an Aramark executive chef at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. On Sept. 20 he participated in ABC Day, when thousands of team members lend their time, energy, and expertise.
At the Pathways Center, the site of one of Philadelphia’s FYP365 Clubs, he gave a cooking demo on how to build a healthy salad. While nutrition benefits were of course a focus, he also spent time on how easy it is to make healthy food.
Chef Mike says teaching is his favorite part of his job, and his presentation was met with great interest. “Most people were surprised to learn that they can utilize ingredients they’re already familiar with to make healthy food,” he observes. “Once people realize that it is not difficult or really not as time consuming as they think, they will eat healthier.”
These activities tend to come full-circle, renewing Chef Mike’s personal commitment to eating well at home and volunteering at soup kitchens with his four sons. “I hope that someday this experience will make them better men in their own communities.”
The Nutrition Expert: Forming Community Connections
Behind each of our culinary experiences is the wisdom of a registered dietitian (RD) like Jackie Lang—and her lessons aren’t just for grown-ups. At the Nashville ABC Day, she found herself decorating chef’s hats, serving heaps of veggies, and making banana popsicles (because “anything on a stick is way more fun to eat!”) with a group of eager kindergartners.
Meanwhile, all around her, Aramark Uniform Services employees were painting murals at community centers and donating household items like paper towels to low-income families.
“I tell everyone that ABC Day is the best day of the year. It allows so many of us to meet folks we wouldn’t otherwise meet, and there is something about being selfless that puts you in a better mood,” she shares.
Jackie, who moved to Tennessee just last year, says she benefits too. “Volunteering through work, or on your own, helps make the transition so much easier…. I am able to volunteer and make a difference in my new community.”
What Can YOU Do?
Giving back feels good—it’s enrichment and nourishment for your mind, body, and soul! This month, consider ways big and small to get involved in the spirit of the holiday season:
- Volunteer at your neighborhood food bank or soup kitchen.
- Know of a local charity that’s truly making a difference? Donate in honor of #GivingTuesday, November 28.
- Invite someone new—such as a colleague, friend, or neighbor—to your family’s Thanksgiving feast (and show off your better-for-you dishes!).
Regardless of how you contribute, give yourself and others the gift of giving back as you show thanks this season.
Note: Since everyone’s health history and nutritional needs are so different, please make sure that you talk with your doctor and a registered dietitian to get advice about the diet and exercise plan that‘s right for you.