Eating Healthy, Local and Sustainable

Published on : 3/31/23
  • Name: Soledad Hearon
    Title: Project Manager
    Segment/Site: Healthcare, Mary Allen District in New Jersey
    Years with Sodexo: 4
    Areas of expertise: Sustainability, wellness, clinical nutrition

    Soledad Hearon is a passionate sustainability and wellness advocate, both at work and home. During the pandemic, she and her family left city life for upstate New York, where they now grow their own food and live off the land. Creating resilient food systems for her family has translated to her professional endeavors: She works with local farmers to bring sustainable produce to communities she serves. Here, she talks about healthy food and how companies can truly move the needle in their sustainability goals.  

    Interviewer: What makes you passionate about CSR and sustainability work?

    Soledad Hearon: It was always an interest of mine. As a dietitian, I believed in back-to-basics, the core of food, whole foods, the local aspect of food and resilient food systems. That's what piques my interest, the health aspect of sustainability.  

    Interviewer: What has been the most satisfying or impactful CSR project you've worked on at Sodexo?

    Soledad Hearon: There's been so many, to be quite honest. It's been really wonderful working with a company that truly takes sustainability to heart, whether it’s rolling out plant-based menu items or purchasing more local, which is something I enjoy doing. During COVID, when a lot of food was going to landfills because everything was shut down, the USDA put out a grant trying to get this food in the hands of the local community. So, we worked with The Common Market, which works with all the local farmers within a 250-mile radius, to get produce boxes in the hands of local community members through organizations like the YMCA. We would have days where we would hand out thousands of produce boxes to people in need. That was part of a Stop Hunger Foundation event. Working with the farmers markets to support the communities we serve is one of the most gratifying things we do.  

    Interviewer: How can Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow Commitments help our clients reach their sustainability goals?

    Soledad Hearon: One of the pillars in our Better Tomorrow Commitments is being a champion in sustainable resource usage, with a goal of 50% reduction in food waste by 2025. Waste Watch by Leanpath is our food waste prevention program. As the employees get engaged in Leanpath, they become really aware of not only the food waste prevention piece, but also food quality and food cost. So many other things affect their operation that the food prevention piece is just the icing on the cake. When the program is used to its fullest, it’s automatic. It’s probably one of the best sustainability programs that Sodexo has. 

    Interviewer: What should companies be doing to truly move us toward a healthier planet?

    Soledad Hearon: Companies need to invest in sustainability and report on progress. Put their sustainability goals in their financial registration statement so that they are measured by those goals and they are held accountable. That matters a lot. The more of us who participate in doing this work, the more we see this as relevant to our everyday operation, whether we’re in food services or EVS. Even though you think you don't directly participate, you do, and it could be just with how you engage your frontline team members. Maybe it's teaching them how to properly portion food — that helps to eliminate or cut down on food waste. Maybe it's teaching them proper recycling about cardboard or aluminum cans. Maybe it's teaching them EVS’ proper usage of chemicals, that is sustainability in the workplace. So, people may not think they're doing the work of sustainability, but they are, and it really comes down to operational excellence. We all take part in it in little ways, and it's just a matter of being excited about it.