Local healthcare providers want to help Waupaca residents make healthier eating choices. One way is to encourage local restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores to have healthier choices readily available.
This is made possible through the Waupaca Eating Smart (WES) program, which began in 2010 as a collaborative project between University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Wisconsin Partnership for Activity and Nutrition, the Waupaca County NuAct Coalition (Nutrition/Activity coalition) and Portage County Coalition. The Waupaca ThedaCare Wellness department came on board in 2014.
“The project aimed to increase our understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the nutrition environment in Wisconsin and identify effective community interventions to promote healthy eating,” said Bev Hall of the Waupaca County NuAct coalition. “Towards that end, NuAct was awarded funding through the Partnership Program and developed WES as a pilot program targeting restaurants and food stores in the city of Waupaca.”
The organization has helped restaurants establish WES guidelines to provide a healthy family meal that is 700 calories or less and incudes a cup of fruit or vegetables.
WES wants to address how people can impact the choices they make, said Hall. “The overall thing we were looking at was the higher level of obesity,” she said. “How can we impact the environment where you purchase your food?”
Five restaurants are involved. “The idea was to work with the restaurants and work with what they have,” said Hall.
They helped create a specific menu insert with WES meals. “In order to get the WES version of it, they had to slightly play with it,” said Hall.
WES also worked with stores to help create entrees and sides or salads. Recipes are also on display for families to take home. “The whole idea was to build a healthy family meal,” said Hall.
Funding for the program ended in 2012 but NuAct had a sustainability plan developed to continue healthy eating efforts.
ThedaCare has also been involved because it has been working on efforts to address obesity. “It was an easy connection to see how both WES and ThedaCare could collaborate and work on strategies to address the obesity risk for our county,” said Hall.
Marci Reynolds, Health and Wellness Supervisor for ThedaCare Medical Center-Waupaca, agreed. “All of the patients that come to our programs have chronic disease that can be improved through selfmanagement, and nutrition and weight loss is a big self-management issue for many of our patients,” she said.
Despite not having the same amount of funding, efforts for WES are progressing slowly, said Reynolds. “Some of the restaurants continue to embrace it,” she said.
ThedaCare continues to be involved because it “has an obligation, as a non-profit, to provide resources to the community based on identified community needs,” said Hall. “Strategies for provision of these health resources include partnering with ongoing best practice initiatives like WES.”
She said WES benefits everyone. “ThedaCare patients needing dietary intervention, such as cardiac rehab and diabetes, would have access to WES materials to help when dining out,” she said. “WES would maintain the services of a Registered Dietitian to analyze restaurant menu items for inclusion in WES, offer grocery store tours, and other support services. Also NuAct, which oversees WES, would be able to provide additional assistance, funding, and manpower to address prevention and environmental strategies like WES in both participating restaurants and food stores.”
Reynolds said her department will promote WES to patients. “When someone is referred to come to any one of our programs, they receive a handout on WES, with a list of the participating restaurants,” she said. “Then, in their classroom sessions, when the topic is nutrition, we also talk about how they can eat out, but also eat healthy utilizing the WES menus in the participating restaurants.”
Hall is optimistic the program will continue. “We don’t want it to go away,” she said. “If we are going to continue to do it, we need to do it seriously.”
The following establishments are participating in the WES program: Waupaca Woods, Waupaca Ale House, T-Dubb’s, Sisters’ Fine Deli, Secret Garden Café and Neumann’s Piggly Wiggy.
For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 35 clinics in 14 counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. Construction of ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton is underway. For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.