Hy-Vee, Inc. joined 40 of the nation's leading retailers, food and beverage manufacturers and non-profit organizations Tuesday in announcing the launch of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, an unprecedented effort to reduce obesity in the United States.
Ric Jurgens, chairman, CEO and president of Hy-Vee, was on hand at the National Press Club for the announcement of the initiative, along with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and other key food industry leaders. Jurgens, current chairman of the Food Marketing Institute, is serving as vice chairman of the board of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation.
"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," Jurgens said. "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 goal of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation is to reduce obesity – especially childhood obesity – by 2015 by promoting an "energy balance" approach that emphasizes healthy eating and regular physical activity. The initiative will focus in three critical areas:
• Connecting with Consumers in the Marketplace: Participating companies have pledged to make changes to products, packaging, labeling and promotional materials to help consumers manage their caloric intake and choose healthier foods. These efforts will be independently evaluated by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which will publish results of that evaluation.
• Empowering Employees in the Workplace: Together, the member companies of the HWCF represent more than one million employees. These companies will develop new programs or enhance existing programs to help employees achieve and maintain a healthy weight. HWCF is partnering with the National Business Group on Health to evaluate the impact of workplace programs and share best practices with all employers.
• Creating Healthy Habits in Schools: The HWCF is supporting the expansion of the Healthy Weight Partnership, a program that has achieved promising results in its Kansas City pilot schools. This program — which helps children ages six to 11 develop lifelong healthy habits through a school-based curriculum — will be introduced in additional schools in Kansas City, Des Moines, Chicago and Washington DC and in a tribal community in Iowa. The Health Schools Partnership was developed by the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition Foundation, PE4life and the American Dietetic Association Foundation, and will be independently evaluated by the University of California at Berkeley Center for Weight and Health.
The member companies of the HWCF have already committed $20 million to these joint projects, Jurgens said, with more partners expected to come on board as the multi-year effort gets underway.
"As individual retailers and manufacturers we've all been involved with numerous health and wellness initiatives, but this is the first time we've banded together as an industry to come up with common platforms to reverse the trend of obesity in America," he said. "We are dedicated to transforming the way we do business to provide customers, employees and schoolchildren with the products and tools that will help them lead healthier lives."