Focus on Restaurants Engagement to Strengthen Health (FRESH)

Fresh Logo

What is the FRESH Study?

FRESH stands for Focus on Restaurant Engagement to Strengthen Health. It is a study funded by the National Institutes of Health to improve diets of customers who get food at independently owned restaurants. FRESH priority areas are predominantly low-income urban neighborhoods in Baltimore with predominantly African American residents and Latine residents in the Washington DC metropolitan area.

FRESH is a five-year project that is funded by the National Institutes of Health through 2027.

What are the Goals of FRESH?

Our primary objective is to improve access to healthier food and beverage options. This involves:

  • Improving choices on restaurant menus, upgrading cooking methods for healthier meals, and implementing effective ways to promote these healthier options.
  • Partnering with 24 independent restaurants over 16 months. Eight neighborhoods will be chosen randomly, with some trying out the changes while others remain unchanged for comparison.

How Will FRESH Measure Impact?

Our focus is assessing improved access to healthier foods in independently owned restaurants, including sales. We will also look at how the project has affected the people who eat at these restaurants regularly, as well as the staff and restaurant owners.

How will FRESH Stay Grounded in Community Insights?

Over the next five years, FRESH will collaborate with 24 restaurants to increase access to, and promotion of, healthful foods. We will engage with individuals and organizations in Metro DC and Baltimore to maximize the impact of our project. Our aim is to ensure sustainability and broaden the acceptance of our efforts with communities. To facilitate this, we created Community Advisory Boards (CABs) that include:

  • Residents and neighborhood association members of eligible study site neighborhoods
  • Owners of restaurants in eligible neighborhoods
  • Non-Governmental Organizations working in health and well-being
  • Representatives at the city and county levels

How Does FRESH Aim to Inform Practice and Policy Going Forward?

The FRESH study team will gather information to help create a simulation model. This model is like a map that shows how different parts of a system connect and affect each other. The study team will create this model which can be used in other urban settings to help increase healthy menu options in restaurants.

FRESH will start by setting up the model with basic information. Then, more details will be added as we learn more about how FRESH is making an impact. Eventually, this model will be shared online so that other urban areas can benefit from it.

Who is the FRESH Team?

This is a study led by the Healthy Food Systems Lab at Johns Hopkins University and the Diet Disparities Lab at George Washington University. We care about working with community residents and other representatives to make our neighborhoods healthier through improved food systems. We partner with corner stores, dollar stores, grocery stores, carryout restaurants, food pantries, and recreation centers to help people access more nutritious food choices.

Joel Gittelsohn, PhD
Joel Gittelsohn, PhDPrincipal Investigator
Uriyoan Colon-Ramos
Uriyoan Colon-RamosPrincipal Investigator
Veronica Velez-Burgess, MSc, MA, INHC
Veronica Velez-Burgess, MSc, MA, INHCResearch Program Coordinator
Lisa Poirier
Lisa PoirierData Management
Chathurangi Pathiravasan
Chathurangi PathiravasanBiostatistician
Tak Igusa
Tak IgusaSystems Science
Yeeli Mui, PhD, MPH
Yeeli Mui, PhD, MPHSystems Science
Julia Wolfson
Julia WolfsonIntervention
Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, FACP, FTOS
Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, FACP, FTOSMedical Safety
Antonio Trujillo
Antonio TrujilloHealth Economics
Ayoyemi Toheeb Oladimeji
Ayoyemi Toheeb OladimejiDoctoral Student, Public Health Systems Modelling
Michelle Estrade
Michelle EstradeData Analysis
Anna Clair Tucker
Anna Clair TuckerIntervention
Sandra Curran
Sandra CurranGeorge Washington University Coordinator
Lucia Flores
Lucia FloresCommunity

Research Assistants

Rosalinda Romero
Rosalinda RomeroResearch Assistant
Patricia Sanchez
Patricia SanchezResearch Assistant
Stacey Williamson
Stacey WilliamsonResearch Assistant
Audrey Thomas
Audrey ThomasResearch Assistant
Shuxian (Sybil) Hua
Shuxian (Sybil) HuaResearch Assistant

Who are the FRESH Community Advisory Boards?

  • FRESH aims to stay connected to community insights through its Community Advisory Boards (CABs).
  • FRESH has two CABs – one representing Baltimore and another representing the DC metropolitan area.

CAB Roles and Responsibilities

  • Provide support for interpretation & dissemination of results to communities and partnering organizations​
  • Participate in group model-building activities​
  • Suggest additional CAB members that should be part of these conversation
  • Provide feedback on recruitment strategies, data collection tools, intervention strategies, and any implementation challenges.
  • Engage with individuals and organizations to maximize the impact of our project.​
  • Support sustainability and broaden the acceptance of our efforts with communities.​

CAB Members Include

  • Residents and neighborhood association members of eligible study site neighborhoods​
  • Owners of restaurants in eligible neighborhoods​
  • Non-Governmental Organizations working in health and well-being​
  • Representatives at the city and county levels

Meet our Baltimore CAB Members

Audrey Carter
Audrey CarterThe People's Association of Oliver Community
Anthony Medina
Anthony Medina Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition
Aprille Weron
Aprille Weron Mid-Town East Community Association
Terence 'Chef T' Dickson
Terence 'Chef T' Dickson Owner, Terra Cafe

Meet our DC Metropolitan Area CAB Members

Flor Yanes
Flor YanesRivera Group, Crossroads
Carlos Alvarado
Carlos AlvaradoOwner of Cocineros and San Alejo
Norberto Martinez
Norberto MartinezPrince George's County Dept of Health - Langley Park Neighborhood Assoc

If you would like the data collection forms please email Joel Gittelsohn. 

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