Healthier Lyon County wants to make the healthy choice the easy choice when residents and visitors dine out in Lyon County. To this end we worked with local restaurant owners to assess stores for healthy practices and suggest additional changes.
The first restaurant we worked with was Radius Brewing Company, a staple in downtown Emporia known for being the only micro-brewery and restaurant combination in town. As a full-service restaurant Radius has a regular menu that includes artisan-style appetizers, salads, sandwiches, soups, and wood-fired brick-oven pizzas. After 5pm the Chef’s Menu, which rotates weekly, is available, typically featuring fresh seafood, steaks, pastas, and creative appetizers. After the assessment Radius decided to implement two changes we recommended; hiring a dietician to provide nutrition information that would be made available to customers and print new menus that easily identified the healthiest options on the menu.
Co-owner for Radius Brewing Company, Chad Swift says the offer helps encourage his company to come up with healthier options. “Well just in general we try to offer you know less processed foods than other establishments, healthier options, better options,” said Swift. “When Healthier Lyon County said they wanted to promote that, we were all over it.”
Our second restaurant assessment was with Do-B’s Burger Barn. This restaurant was known for some of the best burgers and po-boy sandwiches in town but had been making a name for themselves for having healthy salads and creative menu options. After the assessment, the owners agreed to install bike racks for customer and staff use as well as offering a discount to customers that walk or bike to the location. Other changes included adding a fruit or vegetable for the kid's menu, instead of a fried side and working with a dietician for nutrition information identifying the healthiest items on the menu.
”We wanted to implement things in our restaurant that provide parents healthier options for their kids. Pathways to a Healthy Kansas is going to help us hire a dietician so we get the nutritional value through the menu items, so that customers are able to make a more informed decision, ”said Daryn Bontrager, Co-Owner of Do-B’s. Do’B’s is also the location of one of the City of Emporia Bike share hubs allowing customers and residents of the area to access bikes.
When Covid-19 began to alter the way we could meet in person we at Healthier Lyon County wanted to continue to work with restaurants. In rapid succession we met with four restaurants; Gravel City Roasters, Chi Em Eats, Shangri-La Sushi & Teriyaki and Keianna’s Dive.
The first, Gravel City Roasters, located in downtown Emporia, Gravel City Roasters is a local hangout for college kids, retiree’s and everyone in between. GCR is not a traditional restaurant, but instead a coffee shop that roasts their own beans and features cool specialty drinks and snacks everyone loves. Gravel City Roasters earned $5,000 from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas Pathways to a Healthy Kansas to add a refrigerated display case, convection oven, and bike rack allowing them to begin carrying more healthy food items like fresh cut fruit and yogurt parfaits. One unique way Gravel City decided to help us improve physical activity was to think beyond the bike rack. Sure, Emporia is known for the Dirty Kanza bike race, but it is also known for the Glass Blown Open World Disc Golf Tournament. Gravel City Roasters owner Angie Baker decided to use part of their funding from the Pathways project to purchase a disc golf basket on wheels so they could incorporate this fun pastime with customers and during community events. This was a great way to think outside the box and will be exciting to see when Covid-19 no longer opts us out of socialization.
A newer downtown Emporia restaurant making great strides is Chi Em Eats, also earning $5,000 from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas Pathways to a Healthy Kansas for their work to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Chi Em Eats features traditional Vietnamese cuisine and a large selection of healthy items on their regular menu including smoothies, grilled meats, vegetarian and gluten free options. Owners have been responsive to customer needs and requests adding even more delicious options everyone can enjoy. Chi Em used funds to add a fruit option to both the regular and kids’ menus, a bike rack to encourage physical activity, and a discount for customers who walk or bike to the location. A fruit infused refillable water will also be added, as well as fun books and activities to the kids' section within the store. Chi Em is a making healthy food a family affair!
Just down the road on 6th Avenue, Shangri-La Sushi &Teriyaki also earned $5,000 from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas Pathways to a Healthy Kansas. Shangri-La has been in business in Emporia for 5 years serving a traditional and modern Japanese food such as sushi, Sashimi, special rolls, and teriyaki. Shangri-La has become a destination restaurant for customers seeking a healthy and delicious authentic sushi or teriyaki meal. Funds will be used to increase marketing, purchase a bike rack to encourage active transportation, add additional kitchen equipment, and hire a dietician to provide a nutrient analysis made available to customers.
Our last restaurant for Pathways was Keianna’s Dive, the only restaurant in Allen Kansas. Owner Keianna has been making classic meals for 6 years now and including healthy items to help boost her neighbor's health. Keanna’s has a fun, friendly atmosphere enjoyed by locals and those who come to ride the Flint Hills Nature Trail. Keianna has a special relationship with her customers and often encourages them to eat more vegetables. Keianna already offered many healthy alternatives along with double vegetable or half size portions for those who wanted it. After the Pathways to a Healthy Kansas assessment Keianna agreed to make the following additional easy changes: adding a bike rack, adding an official tobacco policy with signage and using descriptive words for healthy menu items and including pictures and the Healthier Lyon County logo beside healthiest menu items. This addition of the logo allows customers to easily identify the healthiest menu items when glancing at the menu and is a practice we hope to implement in more restaurants.
Keianna also added a fruit side item and fruit dessert and partnered with the newly formed Allen Farmers Market established under the Community Resident Well Being Pathway, and the newly expanded market under the Food Retail Pathway to order more items together making it easier to save money on bulk quantities. Thanks to Pathways the community of Allen Kansas, population 177, now has a healthy option for groceries, prepared food, and local produce. Pathways has made a difference in this community that will improve health for years to come!