Aramark Building Community Academy Grant Expands Successful Healthy Lifestyle Program

Aramark Building Community Academy Grant Expands Successful Healthy Lifestyle Program

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.@Aramark grant helps program expand to educate families about healthy eating choices & exercise.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 9:10am

CAMPAIGN: Health and Wellness

CONTENT: Article

Driven by the increase in chronic disease in Philadelphia’s Latino community, Congreso de Latinos Unidos created Healthy Movimiento, a program that offers families the opportunity to learn how to make healthy eating choices and engage in physical activity, using their own neighborhood resources. This unique and impactful program is now expanding, thanks to a $15,000 Aramark Building Community (ABC) Academy grant

The Aramark Building Community Academy is a forum to enhance the operational and program excellence of community centers in the areas of health and wellness. Through the Academy, Aramark recently awarded $75,000 in grants to five community centers to help expand successful programs designed to improve family health and wellness.

“For Congreso, the ABC Academy not only provided grant money that helped us hire our dedicated staff and purchase program materials, but also provided Congreso with a national platform. Through our work with the Academy, we will be able to showcase our program so others can learn from it, and we can learn about other community programs that may benefit Congreso,” said Julie Avalos, Vice President of Health Promotion and Wellness at Congreso.

Healthy Movimiento began on a small scale seven years ago, to help address health issues faced by Latinos. According to surveys conducted by Congreso in 2010, 60% of their clients reported suffering from a chronic disease related to cardiovascular health, such as heart disease or high blood pressure. Rates of obesity are even higher in Congreso’s service area with 70% of children being overweight or obese. Poor diets, lack of exercise and limited access to fresh foods all contribute to the issue.  

“Healthy Movimiento looks at these obstacles as opportunities by providing the education and tools that empower people to follow through with long term healthy behaviors,” Avalos explained.

Building on best practices of community centers across the country, several unique strategies are employed to build the program:

  • Engaging the whole family unit
  • Using technology to track individual progress
  • Selecting culturally appropriate physical activity like dance to bring people together

Over the span of five weeks, families attend 10 sessions that begin with nutrition lessons and end with physical activities such as yoga, aerobics, and strength building suitable for both children and adults.  Lessons are designed so participants feel excited about implementing new practices on their own, and goal setting runs through them to help the changes stick.

For example, participants are given a FitBit, which keeps track of steps so they can measure their daily movement. Congreso sends each person weekly reports via text message which provide measurable insight into their progress. Tracking steps has proven to be a powerful motivator—in fact, one participant was so enthusiastic that she walked over 5 miles the evening she received her FitBit. Text messages are also a valuable tool because staff members can send out automated reminders throughout the week with messages that might prompt them to try a new vegetable or reach their daily goals, tying back in to the lessons of the class.

“Families respond positively to the program,” said Avalos. “Health is on their minds already, and they can learn with and from one another during workshops or at home.”