For Immediate Release
August 18, 2006
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Mayor Menino, Public Health Officials Kick-off Boston BestBites
New healthy restaurant effort to help fight obesity in Boston.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Boston Public Health Commission, kicked-off a new program to add to the city's strategy in fighting obesity in Boston residents. Boston BestBites, a campaign to encourage restaurants to add or highlight healthy, lighter menu options, was announced today at an event held at Haley House Café and Bakery in Roxbury.
"We live in a time when many people are eating outside of their homes more often and healthy options are needed when dining out," Mayor Menino said. "If we're serious about addressing the problem of obesity we need to include restaurants as partners in our efforts to create a healthier Boston."
Mayor Menino called for all of the city's restaurants to join the program and said that information packets would be sent to some 600 restaurants asking that they participate.
Obesity is now recognized as one of the greatest public health challenges facing the United States, with 66% of adults overweight or obese. Many other health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, are directly associated with excess weight gain. The rapid increase in obesity over the past 20 years is due to multiple changes in our society which affect both our eating and physical activity patterns.
Public health studies show that (for years 1999, 2001 and 2003 combined), 48% of Boston residents are overweight or obese. Rates for blacks (63%) and Latinos (56%) are much higher.
"It's clear that Boston is not immune from the serious consequences of the obesity epidemic," said John Auerbach, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission. "Addressing this serious public health problem has been a high priority for the Mayor and the Commission, and Boston BestBites is an important addition to our list of anti-obesity initiatives," Mr. Auerbach said.
Making healthy food choices available in various settings, including restaurants, is an important part of reversing trends in obesity. Americans eat about 20% of their meals and spend about 46% of their food dollars away from home. Americans also consistently underestimate their calorie consumption. The restaurant industry is recognizing that consumers would like to be able to make informed, healthy choices while eating out – larger chains have begun offering nutritional information and labeling healthier options.
The Boston BestBites program, which has been endorsed by the American Heart Association of Massachusetts, will give neighborhood restaurants the opportunity to join a campaign that promotes these healthier options, benefiting the restaurants while also promoting an important public health message.
Restaurants that participate in the program work with a nutritionist to identify possible BestBites menu items. Those items then receive a nutritional analysis provided by nutrition staff at the Brigham and Woman's Hospital, which has partnered with the city on this effort. If the recipes meet the nutritional guidelines designed for the program, those items can be listed as Boston BestBites menu selections. If the recipe does not meet the nutritional guidelines, a nutritionist will work with the restaurant owner or chefs to consider alternative ingredients or preparation methods that can result in a healthier dish.
In return for their participation, the restaurants receive specially designed materials that they can use promote the program. Table tents and coasters with sayings such as "How you feel tomorrow depends on what you eat today," are provided to prompt customers to consider lighter menu options. Each restaurant will also be featured in advertising that will be placed by the Commission highlighting the Boston BestBites program. Initial reaction to the program has been very positive from the restaurants involved.
"Providing the community with healthy, delicious and affordable food is what Haley House is all about," said Didi Emmons, Executive Chef of Haley House Café and Bakery, the location for the BestBites announcement. "Making food that is healthy and that people want to buy is a bit of an art and can be difficult. Giving restaurants, especially small neighborhood restaurants, help with achieving that goal is both worthwhile and important," Ms. Emmons said.
Haley House is one of twelve restaurants that helped design the program and that are the first to sign up. The twelve restaurants are:
African Cuisine 1248 Hyde Park Ave Hyde Park, MA 02136
Café 1010 1010 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02118
Centre Street Café 669A Centre Street Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Chef Lee's Restaurant 554 Columbia Road Dorchester, MA 02124
City Fresh Foods 2-8 Bowdoin Street Dorchester, MA 02124
Flames Restaurant Inc. 663 Morton Street Mattapan, MA 02126
Haley House Café 12 Dade Street Roxbury, MA 02119
Merengue Restaurant 156-160 Blue Hill Ave. Roxbury, MA 02119
Poppa B's Restaurant 1100 Blue hill Ave Dorchester, MA 02124
Salsa Mexican Grill 118 Dorchester Street South Boston, MA 02127
Solstice Café 1625 Tremont Street Roxbury Crossing, MA 02120
Victoria's Diner 1024 Massachusetts Ave Boston, MA 02118
Boston BestBites is a program of Boston Steps and the Boston Public Health Commission. Boston Steps is funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of the federal Steps to a Healthier U.S. initiative.