In September 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a multi-year initiative to prevent and control chronic disease at the community level. Named the National Implementation and Dissemination for Chronic Disease Prevention — or Partnering4Health — five organizations are working with selected chapters and affiliates to strengthen health in their communities.
A member of the Partnering4Health project, Plan4Health is collaborating with the American Heart Association (AHA), National WIC Association (NWA), Directors of Health Promotion and Education (DHPE), and Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) to support 97 coalitions across the country.
Complementing Plan4Health, NWA is also working to increase access to healthy food and beverages.
Read more about the early success of the NWA’s Community Partnerships for Healthy Mothers and Children (CPHMC):
Eat Fit for Life! Local WIC Agencies Encourage Restaurants to Highlight Healthy Menu Items
The Community Partnerships for Healthy Mothers and Children (CPHMC) project, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), places local WIC agencies at the forefront of public health work by bolstering WIC’s direct service model with policy, systems, and environmental change approaches.
Coordinated by local WIC agencies with support from a multi-sector coalition, CPHMC supports innovative community health initiatives at the local level to improve access to healthy food environments and strengthen community-clinical linkages.
Four local projects in Texas, Louisiana, Virginia, and Michigan are working to energize their communities through restaurant menu labeling initiatives. These projects — Por Vida, Eat Fit Northshore, Healthy Options, and Healthy Families of Oceana County (HFOC) Food Labeling Initiative — are working with local restaurant owners to highlight healthy and flavorful options on the menu.
Americans are inundated with nutrition buzzwords and fad diets, making it increasingly difficult to determine what constitutes a healthy food choice. In fact, 52 percent of those polled in the 2012 Food & Health Survey believe it is easier to do their taxes than to figure out how to eat healthfully. Considering that the average adult buys food from a restaurant 5.8 times per week and 30 percent of children consume fast food on any given day, many people are unknowingly consuming foods/beverages that are high in fat, sodium, cholesterol, and sugar that increase their risk for weight gain and chronic diseases.
Coalitions in Wichita Falls, Texas; St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana; Oceana County, Michigan; and the Eastern Shore of Virginia realized that restaurants are an ideal location to implement environmental changes that will make the healthy choice the default choice.
Joey Skinner, St. Tammany Parish Hospital/WIC CPA, completes a food analysis to convert hospital entrees to meet “Eat Fit Northshore” criteria. Executive Chef Abry Crosby is passionate about creating healthy food options for St. Tammany Parish Hospital employees and visitors.
To accomplish this goal, they established restaurant menu labeling programs in their communities that included a set of nutrition guidelines, recipe analysis, marketing and branding of the program, logos or icons to identify healthy menu items, and targeted recruitment of local restaurants.
The National WIC Association, the organization coordinating CPHMC on the national level, provided crucial technical assistance to these coalitions by making suggestions for visual merchandising, strategic expansion to rural locales and chain restaurants, and connecting local staff with representatives from another national partner, American Health Association.
The coalitions in Wichita Falls, Texas, and St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, were able to leverage existing programs in their state for their restaurant menu labeling initiatives, while the coalitions in Oceana County, Michigan, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia built their programs from the ground up.
Island House Restaurant, Wachapreague, Virginia
All four programs were enthusiastically embraced by their local communities and are collectively partnering with a wide variety of restaurants, including McDonald’s, Copeland’s of New Orleans, Golden Chick, Trailside, Island House, St. Tammany Parish Hospital’s cafeteria, and other local restaurants. Collectively, the four agencies have partnered with over 45 restaurants so far, and more restaurants continue to sign on each week.
Members from the Wichita Falls, St. Tammany Parish, Eastern Shore, and Oceana County coalitions have expressed enthusiasm for these initiatives. The coalitions are planning to sustain (and expand!) the initiatives by continuing to promote the initiatives at partner meetings, providing guidance to restaurant staff on updating and maintaining their menu guides working to establish restaurant menu labeling as a strategic goal of other organizations and coalitions, and pursuing other grant funding.
Healthy Menu Guide for Trailside Restaurant in New Era, Michigan
The National WIC Association has learned a lot about restaurant initiatives from working with these four agencies, and hopes to pass on these lessons to the second cohort of CPHMC sub- awardees and encourage Cohort Two agencies to undertake similar projects.
NWA also plans to develop guidance documents highlighting lessons learned, which can be used by Cohort Two agencies as well as shared with other WIC agencies and the general public, so that anyone interested in pursuing a healthy restaurant menu project will have the tools to do so.
Success story content and all images from the National WIC Association.