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Kroger's corporate affairs chief outlined the grocer's efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle and fight obesity in a presentation during the sixth annual International Forum on Food and Nutrtition in Milan, Italy.
The forum, held at Milan's Bocconi University on Dec. 3-4, was sponsored by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation, a think tank focused on the links between food and nutrition and other social, environmental and economic issues.
Lynn Marmer, Kroger's group VP for corporate affairs, discussed the obesity challenge in the United States - where one-third of children eat fast food every day and a third of all citizens are considered obese – and Kroger's efforts to promote healthy living for associates, customers and communities.
Kroger, the sixth-largest employer in the United States, gives associates a variety of tools to improve their health, including an incentive program with measurable outcomes to improve workplace wellness. Since 2010, employees participate in annual health screenings that measure blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, body mass index and blood glucose levels. The percentage of associates meeting targets in each of the four areas has increased from 2010 to 2013, demonstrating improvement in the health of Kroger's workforce.
"We want our workforce to be the healthiest in America," Marmer said. "More of our associates meeting health targets each year shows real progress toward that goal. We know that becoming healthier, both individually and collectively, improves our personal and work lives – and that benefits our customers, too."
Earlier this year, Kroger's workplace well-being program received a "Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles" award from the National Business Group on Health, and the company's commitment to employee health and wellness was recognized by the American Heart Association.
Healthier Customers and Communities
Kroger uses its economies of scale to increase access to healthy foods for more Americans, through both merchandising and food rescue efforts.
"For nine consecutive years, we have lowered our costs of doing business and reinvested those savings in lower food prices that save our customers more than $3 billion every year," Marmer noted. "More recently, we have invested considerably in lower retail prices on fresh fruits and vegetables in our produce department, especially, which is expanding access to healthy foods for our customers. We are equally committed to caring for our neighbors in need. Our Perishable Donations Partnership contributes millions of pounds of fresh, nutritious items annually to food banks across the country."
Kroger's fresh food rescue program is responsible for 25,000 tons of fresh meat, produce, dairy and bakery items donated to food banks last year, which equates to more than 35 million meals of healthy, perishable food to help feed hungry families.
Cincinnati-based Kroger employs more than 375,000 associates at 2,631 supermarkets and multidepartment stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, Harris Teeter, Jay C, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith's.