Some of Basildon’s most popular restaurants and cafés are combining their culinary skills to persuade local residents to eat more healthily.
As part of a mouth-watering new project entitled ‘Our Basildon Our Food’, the eateries will be promoting healthy options on their menus, adding a tasty, nutritious dish created with the help of food experts.
Nine venues will be sending chefs to attend a healthy-eating cookery course with British Masterchef Mark Baumann from Baumanns Brasserie in Coggeshall, and will receive guidance from nutritional therapist Deborah Colson from the renowned Institute for Optimum Nutrition.
Five of the restaurants are on the Basildon Heritage Trail: McDowell’s Pie and Mash Restaurant, Tasty Bakes and More, Chip and Fin, the Poolside Café at Gloucester Park swimming pool, and the Café Market Restaurant. The other four are Pitsea Leisure Centre Coffee Shop, Chip and Fin in Long Riding, Stacy’s Pie Shop and Café City in the Basildon Garden and Mower Centre.
The project has been funded by NHS South West Essex and delivered by the Our Basildon team at the Foundation for Essex Arts Ltd in response to concerns about high levels of obesity and health problems in the town.
Our Basildon Our Food project organiser Lisa Hawker explained: “We want to create a ‘Tastier Basildon’ to make local residents more aware of the impact that a bad diet has on their health and we are doing this by promoting healthy food which is nutritious and tasty.
“By involving restaurants and cafés along the Basildon Heritage Trail, we are also encouraging people to walk and exercise in the process, persuading them to adopt a healthier lifestyle.”
According to the NHS health profile of Basildon, one adult in four is obese and the number of adults and children who are physically active is way below the national average.
Dr Neel Bhaduri, Public Health Commissioning Manager at NHS South West Essex, said: “Obesity can cause a variety of health problems from diabetes and certain cancers to an increased risk of heart disease and premature death. It also has serious economic costs, not just to the NHS but to business through increased sickness levels and absenteeism.
“By raising awareness in the community about the impact that food has on people’s health, we hope to change people’s attitudes to healthy eating and combat the notion that ‘It’s not for me’.”
Nutritionist Deborah Colson added: “We are what we eat and if you are well nourished, not only will you experience better physical health, you are also likely to reduce the risk of mental illness such as dementia and depression as you get older. Good quality nutritious food means your body and mind can carry out the regular maintenance needed to ensure you age into a classic vintage model, not an old banger!”
A second project running alongside this entitled Our Basildon Our Memories is aimed at encouraging people in Basildon to reminisce about their lives, stimulating both memory and conversation which, combined with good nutrition, is a key ingredient for positive ageing.
The participating restaurants in Our Basildon Our Food are refreshing their menus to include their tasty new dish which will be available to the public from the end of November. There will also be a competition between the restaurants to come up with the best dish, with a public taste test to determine the winner.
Masterchef Mark Baumann praised the scheme and the food venues taking part. “It is fantastic that the town’s restaurants are getting behind this scheme,” he said. “By encouraging residents to sample tasty, low cost dishes when they are out and about, we hope they will want to improve their own cooking skills once they get back home.”
The project will run for a three month period, during which 43,000 households will receive promotional information and special offers. The programme will then be evaluated and it is hoped a further programme of activities will follow, involving more eating establishments in the town.