Health specialist working with business to sell new items at lunch truck
September 07, 2010
Excerpt from Redlands Daily Facts
By JOY JUEDES, Staff Writer
REDLANDS - A casual comment has turned into a community partnership.
The comment came from Ernie Medina, a preventive care specialist at Beaver Medical Group, who walked up to Kool Kactus Cafe's lunch truck, the Kactus Wagon, at Beaver on West Fern Avenue last week. "I just happened to stop by the truck last week, I jokingly said, `Do you have anything that doesn't have one of the five bad guys?' " said Medina, referring to white sugar, white flour, high-fructose corn syrup, saturated fat and trans fat. Kool Kactus did not, but manager Peter Kelly Flores said he would be interested in working with Medina to develop new menu items. They met today to hammer out details. "I already ordered wheat tortillas," Kool Kactus owner Carole Inman said. The new menu items would dovetail with Beaver's employee wellness program, LIFE. Employees earn points by eating healthy and exercising, and points can be traded for items like gift cards. About 300 employees participate in the program, Medina said. "If I could tell them what was `LIFE-approved' on your menu, then I could encourage the LIFErs what they could eat off your menu," Medina wrote in an e-mail to Flores. "It's a win-win for them and us," he said. Moreover, Medina said, the other Kactus Wagon's other stops would benefit too.
"We have patients from all those places - Esri, U of R, Stater Bros. We can tell them, `If you go to Advertisement Kool Kactus, they have these items we've checked out.' " It is easy to substitute items these days, he said. There can be brown rice instead of white, fat-free dairy products and ground turkey, if a person wants meat, he said. "What I tell patients is `yes, we eat burritos, pizza, lasagne,"' Medina said. Of the items currently offered on the Kactus Wagon, the salsa, hot sauce, grapefruitade and some tacos meet the LIFE standard, Flores sai Betty Davis, Beaver's Fern Avenue facilities manager, asked the Kactus Wagon to come to Beaver after hearing about it stopping at Esri on Fridays. "We try to have something here for employees on site," said Davis, who said she wears cactus jewelry every Wednesday to remind employees the truck is coming. The truck has started serving Beaver locations on Terracina near Redlands Community Hospital, Barton Road and Iowa Street, and the new Banning facility. "It's really worked out well, we're really happy with it," Flores said. Medina said he hopes to work with more local businesses. Doing so gives people more choices "for the opposite" of fast-food culture, he said. "If we can get more businesses, it's good for the bottom line," he said. " That helps us on the other end, on the health care side." About 25 years ago, Inman worked on a "Better For You!" program, helping set dietary standards for the San Bernardino County Department of Health and Loma Linda University Medical Center, according to Flores. Kool Kactus marks its "Better for You!" items on its menu, and posts location updates for the Kactus Wagon on its Facebook page.