Healthy Dining Rolls Out New Initiative

In its continuing efforts to contribute to a healthier America, Healthy Dining today announced the rollout of a groundbreaking research-based initiative, the “Healthy Dining School Wellness Rewards Program,” designed to contribute to the health and wellbeing of America’s children and families.

The new “Wellness Rewards Program” will raise money, through Healthy Dining’s restaurant partners, to help schools fund much-needed playground and PE equipment, garden programs, nutrition education and other wellness initiatives. The ultimate goal of this research is to expand this local project throughout the state of California, and eventually into a nationwide program encompassing thousands of schools and restaurants, with year-round opportunities for raising support for schools by dining out. 

Healthy Dining was awarded funding for this Phase I research through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Small Business Innovative Research Program (SBIR).  Five elementary schools in the Poway Unified School District (San Diego), representing approximately 3,000 families, have been selected as part of the first phase of this project, including Deer Canyon, Del Sur, Monterey Ridge, Shoal Creek and Sundance Elementary schools.

Six restaurant companies will be participating in the Phase I project, running between March 1 and April 30, including Outback Steakhouse, Elephant Bar, Souplantation, Zpizza, Bernard’O Restaurant and Sombrero Mexican Restaurant.  Each of these restaurants currently participates in the Healthy Dining Program and is featured on; most also participate in the Kids LiveWell Program, which highlights healthier kid-friendly options on

“Healthy Dining is honored to test and expand this innovative, first-of-its-kind restaurant-based wellness rewards program for schools. By participating, these schools and restaurants are underscoring their leadership and commitment to supporting healthy lifestyles for children and playing a major role in helping generate the much-needed resources for the schools’ wellness and fitness programs,” says Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH, president and founder of Healthy Dining. 

“These programs are vitally important to kids’ health and wellbeing, and the funding is earned simply by families doing what they already do—eating out at some of their favorite restaurants. And parents can feel good about these restaurants, which offer Healthy Dining-approved and Kids LiveWell choices.”

“We are thrilled to have been selected for this groundbreaking initiative,” says Terry Worthington, principal of Deer Canyon Elementary School.  “Our students and their families are so excited to participate in such a positive and enriching program.  We look forward to using the funds raised for our Wellness Day, to purchase PE equipment, and support our mileage club program that will utilize our newly built jogging track.  These will all be beneficial in helping our kids keep moving toward a healthier lifestyle.”

The pilot program provides each student at the five Poway schools with a “School Wellness Rewards” card. During the 60-day test period, school families may dine out any time at any of the participating restaurants and present the “School Wellness Rewards” card for a 10% discount off their total bill. The restaurants will track the numbers of families participating and meals sold. Healthy Dining will then gather the data to evaluate and assess the potential for program expansion.

Healthy Dining said the program can have a major impact on every community.  Restaurants will enhance their local economy with increased business and also promote their Healthy Dining-approved and Kids LiveWell menu choices to families.  Schools can receive the much-needed funding to ramp up or even resurrect their wellness programs so that kids are getting physical activity and nutrition educations as part of their school experience.  And, ultimately, families can reap the greatest benefits as they share quality family time dining out together and feel good about contributing to the overall health and fitness of their child and his or her classmates at school.

This is the sixth SBIR award that Healthy Dining has received through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The “School Wellness Rewards Program” project is led by Nicole Quartuccio Ring, R.D., Healthy Dining’s director of restaurant and community partnerships. The research is led by Esther Hill, PhD, Healthy Dining’s director of research and quality assurance. The research advisors for this project include:

  • David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP: Dr. Katz is an internationally recognized nutrition, weight management and chronic disease prevention specialist. He is the founding director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center. Dr. Katz is also a board certified specialist in both Internal Medicine and Preventive Medicine/Public Health and is the founder and president of the non-profit Turn the Tide Foundation and editor of Childhood Obesity.
  • Desiree Backman, DrPH, MS, RD: Dr. Backman has been instrumental in providing her expertise in diet and nutrition, particularly in her current role as program director for the Public Health Institute. She oversees a multi-million dollar contract with the California Department of Public Health to improve the diet and physical activity practices of Californians and ultimately reduce the risk of chronic diseases and obesity. Dr. Backman was influential in the development, growth and evaluation of the “California 5 a Day—for Better Health!” campaign and served as the manager of the campaign for ten years.

News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by WTWH Media LLC.