SCHUYLER COUNTY, N.Y. (WENY) -- Almost a dozen Schuyler County restaurants are working to get healthier meal options onto their menus.
In 2015, the county health department helped to launch a community-wide Healthy Food Choices initiative known as HEAL Schuyler. Now, the group is restructuring the program, incorporating in more eateries and hoping to spread awareness across the county.
"I make homemade lunches from products we get from local producers," says Mindi Behedydt, Owner of Seneca Sunrise Coffee in Watkins Glen. "I love to create good, wholesome meals for people to have. It's [been] hard to find [healthy choices] around this area."
Participating restaurants must submit recipes and are then classified by tier according to USDA guidelines.
Bronze standards focus on overall meal balance. Silver looks into calorie content and added sugars. Gold focuses on additional sodium and saturated fats. It also means there is at least one gluten free option on the menu.
There are currently eight restaurants enrolled in the program.
Some business say they would like to help make a healthier community. For others, including Kathryn Paradiso, Owner of Paradiso's Village Bakery in Montour Falls, the choice to participate is personal.
"We have a lot of health issues in our family and it's hard to find a place to go and eat where you don't have to watch every little thing," Paradiso says. "[For example] we dont have a deep fryer here. We try and keep it healthy."
HEAL Schuyler has already awarded Jerlando's Restaurant and Classic Chefs a gold status. Currently, a few others are working to classify recipes into a tier.
"Any time is a great time for a restaurant to get involved," says Elizabeth Watson, Public Health Specialist with Schuyler County Public Health. "Right now is good because there is more focus on local foods and most of the time you can eat healthy by eating local."
For that reason, many of the participating restaurants are now working to try and incorporate more local ingredients into their dishes.