In a letter to Aramark’s board chair today, 23 state representatives called on the Philadelphia-based food service giant to reduce the climate impacts of its menus. That means increasing the amount of plant-based foods and reducing the amount of animal products, especially red meat, which bigger climate footprint because of the emissions produced by growing their feed and the animals’ own digestive tracts.
Since Aramark sells more meals than almost anyone else nationwide, even moderate changes to their menus served to millions at colleges, hospitals, stadiums across the country can have a big impact.
The lawmakers noted that their letter comes on the heels of reports from the world’s leading experts—at the United Nations and the Lancet medical journal—that “call for the world to ‘limit demand for greenhouse-gas intensive foods through shifts to healthier and more sustainable diets’ to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.” Doing so, they said, is in line with Governor Wolf ’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas pollution in the state 80% by 2050.
Their call also comes amidst growing climate protests led by young people across the country and the world demanding stronger action on climate change. Many of these protesters attend high schools and colleges where food is provided by Aramark.
While the global call for climate action is reaching a fever pitch, Aramark finds itself in a moment of transition and opportunity.
Newly appointed CEO John J. Zilmer has taken over after his predecessor stepped down amidst internal controversy. And the new CEO has vowed to prioritize what is right for its customers. Perhaps no action would demonstrate the company is going to walk that walk than reducing the climate impact of the food it serves. As the lawmakers wrote:
“Aramark’s commitment to reduce climate emissions from food purchases will have a direct impact on its customers’ health—in both the short- and long-term. You serve millions of college students at campuses across the country and several right here in Pennsylvania; the same students’ whose future will be determined by the actions we take (or fail to take) when it comes to acting on climate change. You are also feeding millions of hospital patients—including those suffering from climate change-related impacts, such as heatstroke, asthma attacks and natural disasters—from wildfires to hurricanes. These customers deserve food that nourishes them today and invests in their future health.”
The company has already begun to lay the foundation for taking this action—acknowledging the importance of cutting its climate emissions at its Annual Shareholder meeting in other areas of its operations and launching a pilot program to train chefs in plant-based menus.
Zilmer has an opportunity to build on that work and make Aramark the first food service company to embrace climate-healthy, customer-friendly menus. To do so, the lawmakers specifically call on the company to:
1. Achieve at least a 20% reduction in emissions associated with the most climate change-intensive foods on its menus—meat, fish, seafood, dairy, and eggs—within the next 2 years
2. Track and make public reports on Aramark’s progress toward that goal
This is a defining moment for Aramark. There is no better way to build a legacy of customer service than to invest in the health and future of the people it feeds.