Cooking to combat youth obesity

Aramark took its new logo to the skies Monday, turning on a new sign atop its tower at 11th and Market Streets. The rebranding, underway since the company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in December, features a modified "star person," made to look like a person in action.
Aramark took its new logo to the skies Monday, turning on a new sign atop its tower at 11th and Market Streets. The rebranding, underway since the company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in December, features a modified "star person," made to look like a person in action. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)

Children's Hospital, Aramark partner on effort to teach families about healthy meals.

Posted: August 01, 2014

When Gigi was 5, her mother, Sarah Eisenstein, was getting worried. A big child - born at 10 pounds, 13 ounces - Gigi was gaining weight, as the family dined on hot dogs and ate chips as a snack.

Now, Eisenstein cooks eggplant and zucchini fries for Gigi and sister Isabella. Their mother learned these skills at Cooking with Friends, a Children's Hospital of Philadelphia program. Gigi, 8, tall for her age, is at a healthy weight.

The program that helped Eisenstein will expand into a community-based study, thanks to a new partnership between Children's and the food service company Aramark, announced Wednesday at the Enterprise Center in West Philadelphia.

A $750,000 grant from the Aramark Charitable Fund will launch Home Plate, a program designed to teach 60 families in the community how to cook nutritious meals at home.

"It's fair to say that we've made progress" in reducing childhood obesity, said Steven Altschuler, Children's CEO, but more work needs to be done. Thirty percent of U.S. children are overweight or obese when they enter school, said Trish DeRusso, director of Children's Healthy Weight Program.

Home Plate will launch in the spring of 2015 at the Enterprise Center's Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises, formerly an abandoned supermarket. Parents will be chosen from Head Start and other programs.

The study will involve weekly cooking sessions for six weeks, and will be ongoing for two years. Peer mentors will teach families how to cook and share advice about meal planning and getting their children to eat the meals they prepare. Principal investigator Senbagam Virudachalam and her team will measure the nutritional value of food the families eat daily and track their heights and weights.

Aramark, which provides two billion meals a year at schools, hospitals, and other workplaces, hopes to use the study as a model to replicate in other cities, said Eric Foss, the company's president and CEO.



RZamzow@phillynews.com

215-854-2587

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