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Healthy menu options and philanthropic efforts have become expected weapons in every quick serve’s arsenal over the last few years. Now, major brands are increasingly figuring out how to kill two birds with one stone by combining those efforts.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, for example, has helped spread the message about nutrition and sustainable agriculture in schools through a partnership with the Milan, Ohio–based nonprofit Veggie U.
Through the partnership, Chipotle donated 100 percent of the proceeds from all kids’ meals purchased between August 24 and 31 (up to $250,000) to Veggie U. And throughout September, customers can take back their receipt showing the kids’ meal purchase to claim a free Chipotle kids’ meal.
“Chipotle has long believed that it is important for people to understand where their food comes from, and Veggie U is a like-minded organization that introduces children to those issues in a great, interactive way,” says Danielle Winslow, spokeswoman for Chipotle. “Veggie U is unique amongst garden programs because it can be put into any classroom anywhere in the country, which has allowed us to support and implement Veggie U nationwide.”
Under Veggie U’s “Earth to Table” program, which is inspired by farmers, chefs, and educators, participating schools receive a classroom grow kit that includes vegetable seeds, soil, grow lights, and a worm farm. There are also accompanying lesson plans for children to experience the process of planting, growing, and harvesting fresh produce. The program is designed for elementary school students, as well as those with special needs.
“Chipotle was founded on the idea that fast food doesn’t have to be your typical fast-food experience,” Winslow says. “We are dedicated to changing the way people think about and eat fast food by constantly looking for better ingredients from more sustainable sources prepared using classic cooking techniques. By continuing to seek out and purchase better ingredients, as well as support organizations like Veggie U, we hope that we can drive larger change in the food industry and encourage other restaurant companies to join us.”
To date, more than 2,600 Veggie U classroom garden kits have been placed in 29 states, and Chipotle’s back-to-school fundraiser is helping expand Veggie U’s reach to an additional 675 classrooms this fall. Winslow says the brand’s help will allow more than 30,000 students and their families to learn about health and agriculture, adding that Chipotle plans to extend the Veggie U partnership, which initially launched in 2010.
Chipotle has supported a variety of other philanthropic healthy eating initiatives. In 2010, its “No Junk” campaign encouraged Americans to forward their junk e-mails to Chipotle. Each e-mail helped provide nutritious cafeteria meals for school children around the country through a partnership with Chef Ann Cooper’s nonprofit organization, The Lunch Box.
“It is important to our brand to be able to extend this health and nutrition message through partnerships with health- and activity-based organizations that share our goals.”
Chipotle also raised $1 million for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in October 2010 through its annual Boorito fundraiser. And last fall, the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation was created to support people, organizations, and institutions committed to making a more sustainable future.
“Supporting programs that help make better food a priority is one of the pillars of our philanthropic outreach, and we will continue to support programs of this kind around the country,” she says.
Subway also regularly combines its healthy eating and philanthropic efforts. Its 12-year-old partnership with the American Heart Association and its commitment to organizations like the American College of Cardiology and the National Institute of Health are cornerstones of its company-wide philanthropy.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years,” says Elizabeth Stewart, Subway’s director of corporate responsibility. “By offering families more options, it's our goal to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
“We believe that wellness comes from a combination of a lot of factors, including nutrition and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. We are committed to promoting health and nutrition, and providing easy access to detailed nutrition, dietary, and healthy lifestyle information has been a priority for us for many years,” she says. “As such, it is important to our brand to be able to extend this message through partnerships with health- and activity-based organizations that share our goals.”
Subway also makes donations to the Jared Foundation, led by Subway spokesman Jared Fogle, to help children learn lifelong diet and exercise habits with healthy programs and education.
“The Jared Foundation wants to be known for our programs that actually reduce childhood obesity, not simply a signature fundraising event,” says Russell Taylor, the Foundation’s executive director. The Foundation’s signature obesity-reducing program, CATCH (Coordinated Approach To Child Health), is in more than 8,000 schools and afterschool centers in North America.
Healthy eating and socially responsible practices will always be a big part of what Subway is and what it stands for, Stewart says.
“We will continue to challenge ourselves to constantly improve.”