Nestle USA, Sara Lee Corp, Kraft Foods Inc., Kellogg Co., General Mills and ConAgra Foods are among those refrigerated and frozen food processors joining the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a national, multi-year effort to help reduce obesity -- especially childhood obesity -- by 2015.
Officials say the effort represents an "unprecedented coalition of more than 40 retailers, non-governmental organizations and food and beverage manufacturers." The organization says it will promote ways to help people achieve a healthy weight through energy balance. It focuses on three critical areas -- the marketplace, the workplace and schools.
"The stakeholders involved in this commitment recognize that by working together we can make a real difference on the obesity issue in our country," said David Mackay, Kellogg president and CEO and chairman of the board of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. "We are united in an unprecedented, collaborative and focused effort to help children and adults achieve better energy balance between calories in and calories out."
The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation will promote the concept of energy balance -- balancing calories consumed as part of a healthy diet with calories expended by physical activity -- to people in the places where they spend much of their time: to consumers in the marketplace, to employees through workplace programs and to children in schools.
Members of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation have already committed $20 million to this joint initiative to raise awareness about the importance of balancing a healthy diet with physical activity, particularly among children ages six to 11 years old and their parents and caregivers. This effort will include a soon-to-be announced national public education campaign on energy balance.
Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation efforts include:
Connecting with Consumers in the Marketplace: Participating companies are committing to build on existing efforts and will be making changes to their products, packaging and labeling to make it easier for consumers to manage their calorie intake while preserving or enhancing overall nutrition quality.
Specific options companies may undertake include product reformulation and innovation; providing smaller portions; redesigning packaging and labeling; placing calorie information on the front of products; providing consumers with information and educational materials; and in-store promotion of the initiative. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) will support an independent, objective evaluation of the marketplace initiative. Results from that evaluation will be publicly reported.
Empowering Employees in the Workplace: Participating companies will undertake new or enhance existing programs to help employees achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This may include providing calorie information and healthier food and beverage options in cafeterias, vending machines and break rooms; providing access to exercise at work through individual and group activities; offering weight management programs; and implementing tools to track progress, like health risk appraisals. The impact of the workplace efforts will be evaluated by the National Business Group on Health. Best practices will be shared with employers so they may be replicated.
Creating Healthy Habits in Schools: The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation will expand the successful Healthy Schools Partnership to additional schools in Kansas City; Des Moines, Iowa; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and a tribal community in Iowa. This expansion follows a successful pilot in Kansas City.
The Healthy Schools Partnership integrates nutrition education and physical education through a school-based curriculum to help children develop lifelong positive healthy habits. The Healthy Schools Partnership was developed by the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition Foundation, PE4life and the American Dietetic Association Foundation. The Healthy School Partnership is being evaluated by the University of California at Berkeley, Center for Weight and Health.
"By developing and promoting common sense solutions that society can embrace with certainty, we believe we can help make a difference in the fight against obesity," said Ric Jurgens, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Hy-Vee, Inc., and vice chairman of the board of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. "I know that the dedicated organizations involved in this effort, combined with the tremendous resources at their disposal, will make a significant impact in this critical area."
The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation is a unique partnership between retailers, non-profit organizations, food and beverage manufacturers and trade associations aimed at helping to reduce obesity. For more information, go to www.healthyweightcommit.org.