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Spreading the word on nutrition
HAVING regular meals isn't necessarily a reflection of a nourished diet. Knowing this, Sodexo feels it is imperative to spread the importance of nutrition, starting with senior citizens.
Founded as a food services provider in 1966, French firm Sodexo has expanded into a "quality-of-life" multinational supporting nutrition and hunger-based causes.
In Singapore, Sodexo has engaged in community initiatives since it began operations here in 1982, one of which is Servathon, which engages Sodexo's suppliers, clients, employees and their families in addressing such issues in the country.
Between November 2016 and February 2017, the company partnered the Pacific Activity Centre in Yishun Greenwalk to talk about the importance of nutrition to seniors. The initiative also looked at another issue affecting them - loneliness.
"We realised that one of the key issues with seniors is that of loneliness and many rarely step out for social reasons. So we wanted to step in using food as a means to break away from that loneliness," explains Roshith Rajan, Sodexo's director of corporate responsibility Asia-Pacific.
Five different activities were held throughout that period for the elderly, which included cooking demonstrations, recipe sharing by Sodexo chefs and talks by Sodexo nutritionists on the benefits and means of healthier living.
"It is incredibly fulfilling to share my expertise with seniors during Servathon to assist them in making informed food choices. This allows them to take another step towards a healthier lifestyle in their golden age," says Loh Mun Ning, a nutritionist from Sodexo.
The upcoming instalment of Servathon will take place on July 1 in partnership with The FoodBank Singapore. This will see Sodexo raising funds and supplier donations through The Food Bank Singapore for the THK Seniors Activity Centre in Ang Mo Kio.
Sodexo also worked with Lions Befrienders and raised about S$30,000 for the association and the Community Chest in May 2016.
Mr Rajan is heartened by the previous turnout and high participation rates of Sodexo employees.
"Last year we had 224 volunteers joining and contributing which was already a 10-15 per cent increase compared to the previous years. We will continue to encourage our employees to volunteer by providing them with the right platform and supporting policies," says Mr Rajan.
Looking ahead, Mr Rajan says: "Working with The Food Bank Singapore as a key partner with Sodexo will also allow us to identify future beneficiaries and partners that we can work with."
Such initiatives exemplify the company's mission, which is "to improve the quality of life for our employees and all that we serve; and to contribute to the economic, social and environmental development of the communities, regions and countries in which we operate", says Mr Rajan.
The most prominent global initiative of the firm is Stop Hunger. The initiative, which focuses on adequate nutrition, was started in 1996 by Sodexo employees in Boston to provide free meals to children in less-privileged neighbourhoods. This was done out of school cafeterias operated and managed by Sodexo during the school holidays, so that children who could not afford regular nutritious meals were given every opportunity to.
While Stop Hunger has since evolved into an independent non-profit organisation with the intent of fighting hunger and malnutrition globally, it still has an active partnership with Sodexo.
"Sodexo is a proud supporter of Stop Hunger, which we established 20 years ago. In 2016, more than 110,000 people volunteered for Stop Hunger and more than five million meals were distributed globally," says Mr Rajan.
Employees from Singapore are also active in this global drive. Through a partnership with Stop Hunger and the United Nations' (UN) World Food Programme, the staff share their experience with schools and governments in countries such as Cambodia and Indonesia on such areas as food hygiene and nutrition.
"The UN has set a Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030. We will continue to mobilise the support of Sodexo's ecosystem of employees and their families, business partners and consumers in achieving this goal," says Mr Rajan.
It is safe to say that Sodexo's mission is very much on track.
- This article is part of a series covering companies contributing towards under-served causes.
The Business Times supports NVPC's Company of Good programme as media partner. Go to www.companyofgood.sg for more information. Company of Good is in support of SGCares, a national movement dedicated to supporting the goodwill of Singaporeans and to guide them to better help those in need.