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PICH Brings A Healthy "Change" to Lake County

Monday, March 5, 2018

Lake County, CA. North Coast Opportunities, Inc. (NCO) recently wrapped up a three-year project in Lake County. Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) started in 2014 thanks to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant totaling $1.4 million. These CDC PICH grants were intended to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities, and control health care spending.

One of the most resounding successes was the “Menus of Change” initiative. To combat the conflict restaurants face between serving crowd-pleasing versus healthy food, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health developed Menus of Change: The Business of Healthy, Sustainable, and Delicious Food Choices. PICH contracted with CIA’s lead trainer, Chef Brad Barnes, to deliver the Menus of Change training in Lake County. Over 26 chefs representing 15 restaurants and food service locations participated as a part of the "Eat Well Lake County" initiative. These restaurants committed to reducing sodium and increasing plant-based options on their menus. The training was extremely well received, with 88% of participants saying it exceeded their expectations.

One of the best examples of Menus of Change being put to work comes from the Woodland Community College Culinary Program. Chef Instructor Robert Cabreros incorporated the Menus of Change philosophy into the menu for Aromas Café, the on-campus restaurant run by culinary students. According to Cabreros, “We are very surprised by how well it has gone with our customers. We have sold more salads and healthy rice bowls than ever before.  Maybe 3 to 4 times as many salads!”


Cabreros took it a step further by including elements of the training in the college’s culinary curriculum, and many of the first graduates are already working in Lake County restaurants. “The sustainability potential is huge,” says NCO Administrative Manager Robyn Bera. “The inspiration to create healthy menus is likely to ripple through our restaurant environment as more and more new chefs graduate from this program.” Learn more about the Culinary Program or Woodland Community College by calling 707-995-7900. You may also the Lake County Campus page at


Another wonderful success comes from Judy’s Junction, a small restaurant in Upper Lake. Owner Joanne Breton was adamant that she couldn’t make changes without losing her loyal “greasy spoon” loving customers. She was also convinced her long-time staff wouldn’t be able or willing to change. Chef Barnes provided a one-on-one coaching session and made simple suggestions like replacing high-sodium canned goods with low- or no-sodium options.  He also helped her add salad options to a few lunch and breakfast items. The changes have all been positively received, and Breton is happy to be encouraging her customers to eat healthier.


“The best way to continue the positive trend in healthy menu items is to eat at participating restaurants,” says Bera. Look for the Eat Well sticker in the following establishments: Wholly Bowl, Angelina’s Café, Running Creek Casino, Judy’s Junction, Blue Wing Saloon, Fresh & Bangin, Adventist Health Cafeteria, Aromas Café, and Saw Shop Gallery Bistro.