WASHINGTON — The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation will launch “Eat Well, Play Hard, Burn Energy” — a public education campaign aimed at promoting healthier lifestyles — in Hy-Vee, Safeway and other select supermarkets in January.
The multi-million-dollar effort — which will also include social media and paid messaging — will be geared to children ages 6 to 11 and their parents and caregivers.
“We're excited about the opportunity in-store to make a difference,” said Ric Jurgens, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Hy-Vee, last week at a press conference announcing the formation of the HWCF, a group of 40 retailers, non-profit organizations, food and beverage manufacturers, and trade associations aimed at helping to reduce obesity — especially in children — by 2015. Jurgens is the HWCF's vice chairman of the board.
The HWCF will deliver a message of “energy balance” — balancing calories consumed against calories expended by physical activity — in three areas: the marketplace, workplace and schools. An initial $20 million in private funds is supporting the effort.
United Supermarkets, Lubbock, Texas, another HWCF retail member, will give special attention to Hispanic areas where obesity rates are higher than the national average. “It's harder for these families to access fresh, nutritious foods,” said United CEO Dan Sanders.
Hy-Vee, Safeway and United are among a dozen retailer members. Others include Harris Teeter and Brookshire Grocery Co. Among some 16 manufacturer members are Kraft Foods, Kellogg, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Campbell Soup Co.
The launch of the HWCF comes at a time when childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last few decades. Today, 23 million children, or one in three, are overweight or obese. These children are at risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other health complications.
“Obesity is an epidemic that's threatening our economy and way of life,” said David Mackay, president and CEO of Kellogg Co. and board chairman of the HWCF. “It's a significant public health issue.” Kellogg and other participating food companies have agreed to enhance their products' nutritional quality by considering reformulation and innovation; providing smaller portions; redesigning packaging and labeling; and placing calorie information on the front of packaging.
Over the last few years, the food and beverage industry has introduced or reformulated about 10,000 products to make them healthier, said Mackay.
But more is needed, he said. The HWCF is by far the most comprehensive effort to date to help children lead healthier lives, Mackay stressed.
In the workplace, participating companies will help employees by providing healthier food and beverage options in cafeterias, access to exercise at work through individual and group activities; and offering weight management programs, among other steps.
In schools, the HWCF seeks to expand Healthy Schools Partnership — a curriculum that combines nutrition education with physical education. Piloted at the Woodland Elementary School, Kansas City, Mo., Healthy Schools will now be brought to additional schools in Kansas City, Des Moines, Washington, Chicago and a tribal community in Iowa.
Independent evaluations will measure HWCF progress and determine which HWCF's efforts work best. All evaluations will be will be publicly reported.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will evaluate the marketplace initiative; National Business Group on Health, workplace; and the University of California at Berkeley, Center for Weight and Health, schools.
“We'll work with these organizations in an open and transparent process to determine if our efforts are making a difference,” said Lisa Gable, HWCF executive director.