When Philadelphia health officials found that 37 percent of the city’s residents suffered from high blood pressure (47 percent among African American citizens), they took a very novel approach to the problem in one specific area: Chinese food. Instead of NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s failed ban on big sugary drinks, the folks in Philadelphia looked around and found that mom and pop Chinese restaurants supplied some three million meals annually and many were located in low-income neighborhoods.
The Healthy Chinese Takeout Initiative started by recruiting about 200 restaurants who volunteered to take part. Cooking classes were given to chefs from the restaurants with the express purpose to helping them to find ways of reducing salt in food without changing the flavor. The goal was to reduce salt in Chinese take-out food by 10-15 percent and recent tests of the participants show a drop of 20 percent.
This is a great example of a public/private partnership, volunteerism and good planning in trying to reach a worthy goal. The restaurants benefit by offering healthier food. Customers benefit by eating healthier and the city, as a whole benefits from a healthier population. While this is just a small first step, it is significant in terms of approach and early success. Hopefully it is a model that other cities can adopt.
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Image courtesy of www.foodinmouth.com.