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City Hall

City Hall

Parks and Recreation plans healthier foods at city-owned concession stands

September 12, 2013

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There's nothing quite like settling in for a ballgame with a healthy heap of concession stand carrot sticks.

Really, there's nothing quite like it now in Lawrence, and the city's Parks and Recreation department is looking to change that. Leaders are crafting a policy for city-owned concession stands at ball fields and recreation centers that will require at least half of offerings to meet nutritional guidelines.

Ernie Shaw, who leads the city's parks and recreation department, said his staff decided it was time to make a bolder statement about the importance of healthy eating.

"That's really the business we're in," Shaw said. "We want to try to make people healthier. We run programs for that, but what we haven't done for a while is educate people about nutrition."

Concession vendors still will be able to sell big, greasy cheeseburgers, said Tim Laurent, recreation operations manager. "But they're also going to have to offer a turkey sandwich or something like that."

The city has concession stands at the Youth Sports Complex, the Clinton Lake Softball Complex, the indoor and outdoor aquatic centers, and will have a significant concessions operation at the new Rock Chalk Park recreation center.

The change is not likely to occur until next year, when menus will start to feature items Lawrence residents don't expect to see at a concession stand. The city will require each concession stand to offer at least one fresh fruit or vegetable. Health beverages are considered to be plain water, 1 percent or fat-free milk, or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices with no added caloric sweeteners.

To be considered "healthy" food will need to contain 200 or fewer calories, a fat content of 35 percent or less, saturated fat of no more than 10 percent, and no more than 35 percent sugar by weight.

The company that wins the concessionaire's contract will decide exactly what type of healthy food finds its way onto menus, Laurent said. The current contract is set to expire at the end of the year.

"Based on what I've seen at other places that have tried this, I've seen a lot of turkey sandwiches, turkey wraps, grilled chicken, fruits and vegetables are in there now," Laurent said. "We've tried some of this in the past, but we haven't really been committed to it."

Shaw said he'll encourage whatever company wins the contract to post calorie information for each product they sell. The policy also requires that healthy foods be priced equal to or less than comparable products that don't meet the health guidelines. In other words, department officials said, they don't want it to be more expensive to eat healthy.

Laurent said the department plans to accept proposals for a beverage provider — currently it is Pepsi — later this month. The department hopes to accept proposals from concessions operators — currently it is Hy-Vee — in October.

Laurent said he is uncertain how concessionaire companies and consumers will respond to the new policy. Johnson County has implemented a similar policy and had success, he said.

Lori Howell, the catering manager for Hy-Vee who oversees the concession stands, said it will be a challenge to convince concession stand patrons to buy healthier. She said three years ago Hy-Vee offered salads, fruit and other such offerings, but they sold poorly.

"I think people thought it was a good idea, but when it boiled down to it, they still would get the nachos or the hot dogs," Howell said.

Laurent said coming up with an effective marketing strategy will be key.

"How you spin it will be important," Laurent said. "Going out and saying 'look at our healthy choices,' may not be the way to go. The way Johnson County did it is they promoted these foods as foods that will help you perform.

"We're definitely going to try to make it popular. We have been talking for years about being a leader in nutrition and health. We think this is a big step."

Comments

lcomstock 7 months ago

I appreciate these changes—thanks Parks and Rec! Our system of providing care for sick people instead of trying to prevent people from becoming sick in the first place just isn’t working. People who want to improve their health or keep their good health are foiled at every corner—very few (and none that get you anywhere you need to go) safe places to ride a bike or walk, few healthy choices at restaurants, for example. The way I see it, the change here is not taking anything away from anybody but simply offering healthier choices. Because it didn’t work in the past, does not mean it can’t work now. Times change, people change. Maybe now is the right time.

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John Graham 7 months, 1 week ago

Let the vendors decide what to put on their menus based on what the customers request and more importantly what actually sells. One thing for sure is that once government gets in the middle of anything, it gets screwed up very quickly.

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John Graham 7 months, 1 week ago

People talk the talk but will they walk the walk with respect to actually ordering "healthy" items from concession stands. I'll bet turkey wraps will be a poor seller resulting in a lot of wasted food.

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Chris Tilden 7 months, 1 week ago

I appreciate Parks and Recreation's leadership in working to provide healthier options. I don't believe this is an effort to take away choice, but rather will enhance choices that are available. I imagine some "unhealthy" food items will, indeed, continue to sell well. However, there is emerging evidence suggesting that the demand for healthier options is increasing. Just look at sales of sugar-sweetened beverages; nationally sales of these products have been flat for some time, while there is a growing market for bottled water, flavored waters, etc. I believe those using our Parks and Recreation facilities will appreciate these efforts to make healthy options available. I also predict that incorporating nutritional standards into concessions and vending at these facilities will prove to be a sound financial decision, as well as one that helps promote a healthier community.

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christinaholt 7 months, 1 week ago

Having more healthy choices available is a really important step in the right direction. Thank you, Lawrence Parks and Rec, for making this thoughtful and needed change.

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George_Braziller 7 months, 1 week ago

The company that has the concession contract with KU Athletics tried offering healthy options because they thought that was something people wanted. They dropped them from the menu after a year because they didn't sell.

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OonlyBonly 7 months, 1 week ago

Bubble-Head Bloomberg come to Lawrence...... smh

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Larry Moss 7 months, 1 week ago

Nanny Bloomberg lost his job in New York and picked one up in Lawrence.

Says it is his business, it is Lawrence's business but not the individuals business.

You don't have to mind your own business, we got that for you.

Well, there is just no pressing business for us to work on. Soooooo, what you eatin?

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alm77 7 months, 1 week ago

We love to be at the ballpark in the summer, but for 6PM games, we felt rushed to cook a good dinner at home and avoid the unhealthy offerings. But with turkey wraps on the menu, I think we'd probably just bring our wallets and skip the time consuming home cooking. I do wish they would get with the times and accept debit cards though. Who carries cash these days?

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fmrl 7 months, 1 week ago

"Take me out to the ballgame, buy me some broccoli and carrot sticks." Michelle Obama and Michael Bloomberg would be proud. Make la la Lawrence land a nanny state.

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Karrey Britt 7 months, 1 week ago

Kudos to Parks and Rec for making these changes! Eating healthy is important to me and I seek out restaurants and venues that offer such choices! Thanks for making a difference in the health of this community!

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Marilyn Hull 7 months, 1 week ago

I applaud these changes. And I think coaches have an important role to play. My daughters played on a softball team that had brief written instructions for parents on what kids should eat and drink to maintain peak performance (no burgers, fries, soda, etc). The kids took it seriously because the coaches were serious about it.

Thanks, Parks and Rec, for making this change!

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Haiku_Cuckoo 7 months, 1 week ago

If they want to take away my corndog, they'll need to pry it from my cold dead hands! (And considering my dietary choices, that should be any day now.)

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Number_1_Grandma 7 months, 1 week ago

I guess the "city" don't plan on making much money from concession stands then....

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toe 7 months, 1 week ago

Government healthcare naturally requires government control over what you eat. Soon you will be fined or arrested for eating a hotdog on government property. Courtesy of our famously incompetent President.

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rtwngr 7 months, 1 week ago

More feel good, plastic banana, good time rock and roll. Ridiculous.

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nick_s 7 months, 1 week ago

City concessions at Rock Chalk Park? I thought Fritzel, er, Bliss Sports, had concession rights at "our" public rec center?

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Robert Rauktis 7 months, 1 week ago

If you're serious about influencing Americans to eat healthy, you don't heavy-handedly jam-it-down-their-throat". They resent it and only associate other wise delicious stuff with "good intentions". Like my sister who (thankfully) wouldn't eat lobster for their appearance, not to provoke a s discussion of the pros and cons of shellfish.

Shave off egregious crap to be sure, but there is a happy medium and one day at the fair doesn't mold life style. That's a fair's attraction, something different.

Besides, I'd associate a Lawrence approved diet with soft headedness and over budget.

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David Albertson 7 months, 1 week ago

Greasy food doesn't make you fat. Insulin makes you fat. "Healthy" fruit juices and turkey sandwiches made with whole wheat bread make you produce excess insulin which drives most of the calories in to your fat cells. When insilin is done doing its job, you're left with a dip in your blood sugar which makes you hungry and then you eat even more "healthy" food, starting the process over again which leads to excessive calorie consumption. Eat a big juicy steak or pork chop with a side of leafy greens and you will be satisfied and not reaching for excess calories. It's really not that complicated. Sugar (even naturally occurring sugar in fruit juice) and refined carbohydrates (bread, tortillas, etc) are what's driving the obesity/diabetes/heart disease epidemic. Cut the insulin producing foods and your blood sugar, weight and cholesterol will improve.

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