August is our annual healthcare issue, and this year, it comes amid a great national debate about healthcare. Fundamental questions about whether access to healthcare is a right of citizenship, a basic human right or a benefit that should be bought and paid for on an individual basis, have led to a feverish political debate pitting those on all sides of the issue against one another.

One thing is clear: It is an important debate because we spend so much money in this country on healthcare. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a government agency that tracks spending on Medicare and Medicaid, has calculated that based on current trends, healthcare will account for 20 percent of gross domestic product by 2025. That's one dollar of every five spent on everything from airplanes to Tootsie Rolls.

Looking at the issue from a foodservice perspective, it seems incredibly ironic to me that so much of the billions of dollars spent on healthcare can be dramatically influenced by diet. And that's where healthcare foodservice comes into the picture.

People have long recognized the obvious connection between a healthy diet and ... well, health. And yet, armed with this knowledge, one out of every two American deaths this year due to heart disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes will be directly related to poor diet, according to a study published in the Journal of American Medicine. That's about 1,000 deaths per day.

So, if we as a country are looking for healthcare cost savings, one obvious place to turn is healthcare foodservice. This segment is perhaps in the best position to educate all of us about eating in ways that lead to better health and lower medical expenses individually and as a society. This is not lost on the leaders of many healthcare systems, who charge their foodservice departments to not only feed patients and others on campus but also to educate the communities they serve about what a healthier diet looks like and how to partake in better-for-you meal options.

Indeed, this industry leads by example through its actions and outreach. This issue of FE&S is loaded with case studies, perspectives and more that showcase how foodservice operators from all segments contribute to healthier lifestyles for all their constituents.