top feature image

Towards healthier eating in Ontario recreation settings

June 9, 2017

The Nutrition Resource Centre at the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) and the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health’s (OSNPPH) Healthy Eating in Recreation Settings Workgroup released a new resource recently to assist with healthier eating in recreation settings across Ontario. 

Designed for public health professionals, municipal and recreation staff and community partners, Getting Started with Healthy Eating in Your Recreation Setting offers step-by-step actions to help build support for and transition towards healthier food and beverage options in places like arenas, concession stands, public swimming pools and gyms, and more.

This work supports the Government of Ontario’s strategic directions, outlined in the No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy report, specifically to change the food environment where children and families live, play, learn and work.

The new resource package is intended to support all stages of this work in recreation settings—from awareness raising and gaining support, to quick actions that can be introduced on site with little effort, to supporting facilities in making formal and sustainable commitments, like food service contracts, to the creation of healthy food and beverage policies.

“Shifting towards healthier food and beverage choices in recreation spaces is important for our children and future,” says Isabela Herrmann, co-chair of OSNPPH’s Healthy Eating in Recreation Settings Workgroup and a public health dietitian with Peel Public Health. 

Although it’s often assumed that healthier food is more expensive than less healthier items—like pop, fries, chips, and sugary chocolate bars—the resource points out how having healthier choices in recreation settings can in fact be profitable.

For example, a 2016 pilot project launched by an arena in the Township of Blandford-Blenheim in partnership with the municipal manager of community services, Ken Wood, and Oxford County Public Health found that found that a menu with healthier items can achieve higher sales than a traditional menu.

The project was initially based on phone calls with community members who demonstrated interest for having healthier food options in recreation settings, including smoothies, trailmix, hummus and milk. 

 “Results from recreation surveys throughout Ontario show people want more healthy food and beverage choices,” says Herrmann. “Huge slushies with up to 24 teaspoons of sugar are a thing of the past.”

Among additional Ontario municipalities and regions that have already made changes towards healthier options in recreation settings are Niagara, Peel, Grey-Bruce, Algoma, Middlesex and more.

Efforts for healthier foods in recreation settings are also underway in other provinces.  Since 2015, the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Diseases Prevention has been coordinating a project (Food Action in Recreation Environments) committed to taking action on “a blatant yet often unspoken irony – the overwhelming presence of calorie-laden processed foods and sugary drinks in recreational facilities,” according to coalition member Ashley Hughes.

“We hope this new resource will help public health professionals to continue working with local recreation departments to help normalize healthy food provision in recreation spaces and improve the food environment,” says Katie Neil, a registered dietitian with Oxford County Public Health and one of the resource’s authors.

Media contact:

Mary Wales
416-367-3313, x256

For more information about the resource package / the Nutrition Resource Centre or OSNPPH:

Donna Smith
416-367-3313, x227

More information:

NRC Webinar- How to Promote Healthy Eating in your Recreation Setting