Good eats, good for you
Forget the pop, cake and junk food, residents attending local Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) facilities and programs can expect mostly nutritious food choices.
Although the province mandated years ago that schools and government facilities would no longer offer unhealthy food, the RDN jumped on board voluntarily in order to stick with their healthy lifestyle approach.
“We were interested within the RDN because we are always promoting active healthy lifestyles, but we weren’t necessarily modelling that with our food choices,” said Sandra Pearson, superintendent of aquatics and northern recreation services.
Grant money was approved for the project, called Healthy Choices, for Oceanside in 2009 and gradually changes will continue to be made at Ravensong Aquatic Centre as well as Oceanside Place over the next three years.
In December, a new contract was signed with the food services operator at Oceanside Place, Pat Solway, and the concession now offers a larger selection of healthy choices with a new Stay Active Eat Healthy menu board, based on provincial government guidelines. At the end of the three years the concession will offer 70 per cent healthy items.
Vending machines at the facilities still offer junk food, but in the next couple of months they will begin implementing changes that will lead to 100 per cent healthy choices in the machines.
Previously, packages for birthday parties at these facilities would include choices such as pop, pizza and ice cream cakes. Now only healthy items are available, like fruit and vegetable trays, apple and orange juice and healthy pizza. Parents can bring their own cake and treats for the parties if they choose.
Pearson said with the changes made so far, there has been very positive feedback.
“Parents are very thankful we’re not offering [junk food] because once children see it, of course that’s what they want,” she said. “Why would they go for an orange when they could have a chocolate bar?”
The RDN’s Healthy Choices campaign will include nutritious food choices at all events and meetings and flyers with healthy food choices will be sent home with children attending recreation programs.
BC Healthy Living Alliance and ActNowBC gave the grants for the project totaling $8,250. The initiative is part of a province-wide Healthy Food and Beverage Sales in Recreation Facilities and Local Government Buildings Initiative, launched in 2008 and co-led by the Union of BC Municipalities and the BC Recreation & Parks Association.