The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and Aramark are partnering on a research study called Home Plate that is anchored by a $750,000, three-year grant from The Aramark Charitable Fund to the Healthy Weight Program at the hospital. Home Plate seeks to teach parents the necessary skills to cook healthy meals at home and is part of CHOP’s Healthy Weight Program. The initiative is designed to help combat childhood obesity in low-income families with preschoolers through a community-engaged, peer mentor led model to improve family health through good nutrition.

“We are thrilled to partner with Aramark to launch Home Plate, an innovative research study designed to help combat childhood obesity,” says CHOP CEO Steven M. Altschuler, MD. “The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s commitment to children’s health is exemplified by our Healthy Weight Program which directly addresses one of the major public health challenges for children in the United States. Offering community-based programs such as Home Plate helps us to share our expertise at a grassroots level, right in the neighborhoods we serve, with the ultimate goal of developing a national model for other communities to emulate.”

“Working with an esteemed organization as The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on the fight against childhood obesity aligns the interests of our respective organizations to help children and families make the right nutritional choices and lead healthier lives,” notes Aramark President/CEO Eric Foss. “This is another example of how we at Aramark are committed to enriching and nourishing lives in our business and in the communities we serve.”

Home Plate consists of both action-oriented education and formal research about the effects of teaching parents how to provide better and more nutritious meals for their families. The three-year research study will involve a total of 60 parents and 30 mentors over the course of the 24 month study consisting of weekly cooking classes over six weeks, each with 20 parents and 10 mentors during each cohort session. The final year of the research study will analyze Home Plate’s efficacy and refine the intervention. If the study proves successful, it will lay the foundation for a low-cost, sustainable model that can be replicated in community based organizations across the country.

“About one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese by the time they reach school age,” says Trish DeRusso, MD, vice president, Medical Staff Affairs at CHOP. “While improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables is key, people require skills to turn that access into healthier diets for themselves and their families.  Home Plate can help bridge that gap.”

The study will begin in Spring 2015 and cooking classes will take place at The Enterprise Center’s Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises in West Philadelphia. Parents will be invited to participate through various community based non profit organizations, including CHOP Early Head Start, housed within CHOP’s Karabots Advanced Pediatric Care Center, as well as The Enterprise Center.

“Children under the age of five eat 70 percent of their meals at home, yet the foods they eat are often processed or brought in from other food establishments,” says Senbagam Virudachalam, MD, MSHP, principal investigator of the study. “By ensuring that parents of young children have the skills and confidence to regularly prepare healthy food at home, we hope to positively impact children’s food-related habits and routines from the earliest ages."