Background: Healthy eating at Hexagon
A pioneering project in south east London aims to improve the health of thousands of tenants and staff of the Sydenham-based Hexagon Housing Association.
The Healthy Hexagon, Eat less salt project will provide healthy eating advice to over 3,000 households, showing the residents and staff of Hexagon how simple it can be to reduce their salt consumption.
The Eat less salt project has been funded by a partnership grant from the Food Standards Agency and is one of eight projects that beat strong, national competition for grants. The FSA has funded the project as part of a national salt campaign to help consumers reduce the amount of salt in their diet to no more than six grams a day – about a teaspoonful. This is the most adults should eat in a day and the lower the better. Children should have less.
The project will be co-ordinated by campaign group The Food Commission and will work closely with Hexagon residents and staff who will attend free Eat less salt workshops. The workshops will help people to decrease the amount of salt in their diets by helping them to understand labels, to choose lower salt versions of foods they eat and to try out some new ways of flavouring the food they cook.
Residents and staff will also be able to access information about salt in regular residents’ magazines and on Hexagon’s website. The project will involve Hexagon residents from all over South east London, including tenants living in hostels, and residential homes.
The Director of The Food Commission, Jessica Mitchell, says, “We are really pleased that Hexagon are going to be working on this project with us. Staff and residents are already showing a real interest in the work. The involvement of the Association will give us access to a wide range of people in South East London, and Hexagon is kindly providing all kinds of support including staff time, web space and venues.”
Tom McCormack, Chief Executive of Hexagon says, “Hexagon has a strong tradition of resident involvement, and we are committed to assisting in building healthy communities. This project gives us a chance to be involved in a pioneering initiative that we hope will make a real difference to the health of the communities we support.”
Orla Hugueniot, a spokesperson for The Food Standards Agency, says “The Food Standards Agency is delighted to be working in partnership with the Food Commission and Hexagon Housing in providing residents with practical ways to help them to reduce the amount of salt in their diet.”
Five salty facts
- 6g of salt is not a large amount, especially when you consider that 75% of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy, such as ready meals, sandwiches, pasta sauces, soups, pizzas, and processed meats such as ham and bacon. Some brands of breakfast cereals and bread are also surprisingly high in salt. Check the label - more than 1.5g salt per 100g means it is high in salt. Choose products which are lower in salt. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which triples your risk of developing heart disease.
- Salty foods don’t always taste salty. Some brands of bread can contain as much salt as ready salted crisps but most people do not notice the salty taste of bread.
- We only need to eat a very small amount of salt. Most adults currently eat about 9g of salt a day. We should aim to reduce that to no more than 6g per day. Children should eat less.
- Food tastes better without too much added salt. Good food should taste great – but it’s easy to miss out on all those fantastic flavours if they have been drowned in salt. So try not to add salt when you are cooking or at the table.
- Cutting down on salt reduces blood pressure, whether or not your blood pressure is high to start with. When your blood pressure goes down, your risk of developing heart disease and stroke goes down too, whatever your age. In England, a third of people (31.7% of men and 29.5% of women) currently have high blood pressure.
Hexagon Housing Association
The project is one of many that Hexagon is pursuing a part of its Community Development strategy, which aims to engage with residents on a number of fronts including employment training, childcare and other community initiatives.
The project will build on the success of Hexagon’s Time Bank, another Hexagon sponsored community initiative, whereby participants earn credits for helping each other. Residents will be able to become ’Low Salt Champions’. The project will also work with Hexagon’s Care and Support residents, including a new service that provides support to 16-21 year olds in their first tenancies.
The Food Commission
The Food Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which campaigns for safer, healthier food in the UK. The Food Commission publishes regular news, features and investigations in its journal The Food Magazine.
For media enquiries please contact Jessica Mitchell at The Food Commission on 020 7837 2250. Further advice regarding salt and healthy eating can be found at The Food Standards Agency website http://www.salt.gov.uk/.