Hartford Calls on UConn Health to Make Restaurant Dining Healthier

Hartford Calls on UConn Health to Make Restaurant Dining Healthier

The public health experts at UConn Husky Programs guide local Hartford restaurants to prepare healthier food options for the community.

UConn Health has partnered with four local restaurants in north Hartford to create healthier menu options to offer to members of the dining community. The restaurants include Hot Pots, Syp’s Grille, Mr. Pizza and Dunn’s River.

“Our goal is to help create a healthier community in the North End of Hartford by increasing the availability of healthy and affordable food and beverages,” said Elby Gonzalez-Schwapp, senior project manager in the Department of Health and Human Services at the city of Hartford.

The effort led by UConn Husky Programs is a partnership with the City of Hartford’s Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Department of Health and Human Services Hartford Healthy Family Initiative (HHFI) and the Department of Family, Children, Youth and Recreation.

Pilot tour stops at Dunn’s River in Hartford on June 15.

Funded by the CDC’s State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program (SPAN), the Connecticut Department of Public Health is working to implement guidelines for food services in the community and in the workplace to increase the availability of healthy foods.

For this collaboration, analyzes of the restaurant menus and recipes were performed by UConn Health’s Husky Programs team. The experts then worked closely with each restaurant owner to adjust current recipes of select menu items to reduce both sodium and saturated fat content and increase the use of whole grains, fruits and vegetables where possible.

“As a result of this community partnership, restaurants can provide healthier menu options to the Hartford community,” emphasizes Catalina Quesada, MPH, RDN, a community education specialist in the Center for Population Health and the UConn Husky Programs at UConn Health. “To reduce or reduce the prevalence of chronic disease in the community, we need to make some changes in the way we eat. We also need to make it accessible and affordable for people.”

On June 15, a taste-test tour of the recommended menu changes was held with the four North End of Hartford restaurants, with community ambassadors sampling the modified menu items.

And the results of the taste test are in.

“It was so good. The taste, the look, the aroma, it was fantastic,” said Shanika Williams, one of the many community ambassadors who helped Hartford restaurants improve their menus and find healthy alternatives.

“I like that it’s well-seasoned, not too salty, and it’s good for bringing healthy food options to the community,” Kevin Mercado, another community ambassador, told me.

Additionally, once the restaurant menu changes are approved, there are plans to implement a food policy at the project’s collaborative Parker Memorial Community Center to support healthier meals in the community center.

The flavor tour also stopped at Hartford’s Hot Pots restaurant.

“It’s really important to let these restaurants do just the smaller parts, which is changing the sodium content, changing the type of butter they cook their food with,” said Jotty Estrella, a member of the Hartford Department of Health and Human. services.

“It’s hard to change eating habits, but having other options for other people, I think, is just a step in the right direction,” said Erroljh Barrett, assistant recreation advisor for the City of Hartford.