Community centers are the hub of any neighborhood and Aramark knows that better than most companies.
In 2008 the contract foodservice company launched Aramark Building Community to enrich the lives of the less fortunate in every way that its employees’ skills would allow.
Now, Aramark Building Community supports community centers in 50 cities in four countries, 40 of them in the U.S.
Bev Dribin, Aramark’s vice president of community relations, started the program, and speaks to Restaurant Management.
What does Aramark Building Community do?
It is one of our signature volunteer programs where we engage in local communities and community centers in underserved neighborhoods.
We feel it really changes people’s lives—our employees and the people in the centers.
What do your employees do there?
Aramark volunteers apply their culinary, nutrition, workforce training, and facilities management skills—the same skills they use to support clients—to community centers.
On any given day, you might find Aramark dietitians teaching cooking and nutrition classes for parents; our facilities managers refurbishing a weed-covered, inner-city ball field, our environmental experts advising on energy savings, our uniform services team supporting a clothing drive, or our human resources professionals discussing career or college opportunities with at-risk students.
We build on our employees’ strengths and give them an additional opportunity to serve others or their local community.
What led you to set up Aramark Building Community?
We looked at our strengths as a company and how we could share those with the community.
We are a food company so we have a unique expertise to help educate families and our community about how they can live healthier lifestyles.
Community centers are buildings that need to be taken care of for the families who want to use them and benefit from their services.
Why did you choose to support local community centers?
We thought about what organization can we partner with and make the biggest difference. We realized that it’s community centers, which provide a range of support services, from children with daycare, to seniors with elderly care programs, to feeding people and providing clothing, as well as educational assistance. Aramark is in many businesses and it was important for us to partner with an organization that mirrored our business and our customers. They are hubs of communities and we wanted to be part of that.
Our employees are embedded in those locations. We bring our talents and skills and expertise.
How much money, time and resources has Aramark contributed to this program?
All told, we’ve given about $7 million in grants, in kind, and in volunteer support.
What are the benefits to Aramark staff?
It’s a genuine relationship and partnership. One of the most important things that they learn, believe it or not, is they learn about Aramark. You might not know people in different areas—you might work in a hospital and know nothing about working in a school, for example.
How has Aramark Building Community changed since it began?
It’s evolved in its reach but it’s really evolved in the partnerships. When we started we didn’t know what to expect so we brought everyone together to volunteer.
And it’s evolved from this volunteer event experience into these long-term educational relationships and programs, like six-month career readiness training, and teaching expectant parents a whole range of skills, including how to provide the right nutrition for children.
This year you launched 15 Aramark Building Community Opportunity Zones. Can you tell me more about these?
We’re creating these hubs of opportunity that are places that the community can go to, for job readiness (such as working on resumes and getting clothing for an interview) and healthy lifestyles (teaching about growing a garden or how to cook with fruits and vegetables).
Aramark is creating the physical structure for these … [such as] …renovations to a room where nutrition education classes are held, refurbishing a gym where sports take place, or building a community health and wellness garden.
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