“The First Wealth is Health”
Long Branch and the Jersey Shore has long been a great place for beach lovers from all over the tri-state area. The beautiful white sand beaches, nice boardwalks, hot sun, warm sand, and cool water are the perfect combination for an enjoyable day. However, when it comes to eating, the Jersey Shore can be better compared to a ‘healthy food’ desert.
Fried and processed foods abound, and at some beaches it’s literally impossible to find any healthy options. When EZ Ride’s Bike & Ped team got a Healthy Community Network grant from the NJ Department of Health to promote healthier eating and physical activity in Long Branch, we developed a coalition of partners to implement the grant. Our coalition is called Shaping Long Branch. City staff suggested we recruit the three boardwalk beach huts to hold health events for residents and beach visitors and the City took the bold step of requiring the vendors to offer healthy choices for customers.
Steve Xanthacos and his partner Kostas Linardakis manage the three beach huts on the boardwalk in Long Branch and offer the only food and drinks available to beachgoers. This year they greatly expanded their healthy choice menu in the beach huts including items like veggie burgers, fresh fruit bowls, berry and yogurt parfaits, kale, quinoa and chickpea bowls, grilled chicken salads, and fresh sauteed veggies with pasta. Steve and Kostas make sure that all of their products are Non- Genetically Modified Organisms (non-GMOs), and are sourced from local farms.
They have seen great financial success selling healthy foods in the past two summers since they began. In 2017, 15% of total sales came from healthy foods, and that number doubled to 30% for 2018. Steve and Kostas are excited about the growing profitability of the healthy foods business and are committed to providing fresh, properly prepared healthy food options to beach goers for years to come.
When we asked about why he got involved, Steve shared that his personal journey towards healthier living began in 2017. “ I was motivated by a desire to be present for the future of my children, and to be able to enjoy retirement so I actively began improving the way I eat and live”. Steve lost over 30 pounds in the past year by making small changes in his lifestyle that affected his health in big ways. Eating small meals six times a day was one strategy. He also began to eat more nutrient dense foods such as nuts and veggies, started to drink almond milk and plenty of water to serve as a foundation for his diet, and he decreased his meat consumption. He combined that with an increase in regular walking and a positive attitude to successfully achieve his personal goals.
During the three health events that EZ Ride put on this summer in collaboration with the beach huts we:
- encouraged people to check out the beach huts healthy choice menu
- provided 89 samples of pasta & grilled veggies and 38 samples of the kale quinoa veggie bowl
- held a free raffle for 3 baskets filled with fresh produce from our local partner bodega
- set up a game to teach kids and adults about the amount of sugar in their favorite drinks and promote water as the healthiest drink
- gave out jump ropes to kids, healthy recipe cards, and free nutrition and health info
- partnered with Monmouth Medical Center nurses to offer free health screening
- provided $400 worth of coupons for customers to get fresh cut fruit cups or yogurt berry parfaits and cold water for free at each event
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The first wealth is health”.
For more info, please contact EZ Ride at 201-939-4242 and ask for the Bike & Ped team.
About the Grantee
EZ Ride is a non-profit, public-private partnership with a mission to implement transportation programs and services that enhance quality of life, regional mobility and economic opportunity while reducing traffic congestion & air pollution. The Bike & Ped team offers Safe Routes to School (SRTS) services and works to build safe and healthy communities.