By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

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The American Heart Association and Aramark are launching a new program in  Philadelphia, Chicago and Houston as part of their Healthy for Life 20 By 20 initiative to improve the diet and health of millions of Americans by 20 percent by the year 2020.

The 12-week pilot program will track and measure the impact of attitudes and behaviors of primarily single mothers or single heads of households responsible for food and meal decisions for their families.

“Less than 2 percent of all Americans meet the AHA’s definition of ideal cardiovascular health due primarily to poor diet. By bringing this high impact program to underserved communities and educating people to make healthier food and lifestyle choices, we hope to watch alarming statistics like this one eventually fade away,” said Penny Kris- Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., professor of nutrition at Penn State.

“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,” said Eric J. Foss,  chairman, chief executive and president of Aramark. “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.”

The program is designed to help people make better food and lifestyle choices through culturally relevant and family-centric cooking, as well as curriculum-based nutrition education focused on teaching easy ways to make healthy and affordable meals.

“The most exciting part of this pilot program is our opportunity to impact and measure the change in attitudes and behaviors with heads of households who make the food and meal decisions for their families,” said Kim Stitzel, senior vice president of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation for the American Heart Association.

“We have created measurement criteria that will chart the knowledge and behaviors of participants, allowing us to then use this information to replicate the most successful aspects of the program and scale it nationwide,” she said.

The teaching methods include lesson plans, hands-on activities, take home resources and questions, group discussions and progress reports centered on successes and struggles.

Participants will learn how to budget, shop and prepare healthy meals, and increase their level of comfort and knowledge of healthy ingredients, cooking skills and recipes.

Five longtime Aramark Building Community partners will be involved in the 12-week pilot program: Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Inc.; Episcopal Community Services and Federation of Neighborhood Centers in Philadelphia; Casa Central in Chicago; and Neighborhood Centers in Houston.

Following the pilot period, the nationwide program will work with Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, a network of more than 500 community-based social service organizations.

Photo courtesy of Aramark/Edward Savaria Jr.