Healthy food policies in sport and recreation settings make for healthy customers and revenue



TYPE Prevention Centre News

Healthy food and drink policies can lead to customers and staff making healthier choices in recreation centres, according to research funded by the Prevention Centre, RE-FRESH CRE, The Institute for Health Transformation and the Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition (GLOBE) at Deakin University. It found recreation centre policies can contribute to reducing sugar consumption from sugary drinks and that the introduction of a healthy food and drink policy can reduce the amount of sugar purchased in food, and the energy density of food and drinks sold.

The research looked at six years of sales data from YMCA Victoria, one of the state’s largest aquatic and recreation facility managers, following the introduction of a Healthy Food and Beverage Policy for their cafes and canteens.

With over 15 million visits to YMCA facilities annually, and 58,000 swimming lessons across Victoria every week, we are in a position to positively influence the food choices and eating behaviours of children and families through improving the food and drinks we offer.

Health Promotion Manager, YMCA

All food and drinks were classified by their ingredients and nutrition information as ‘red’, ‘amber’ or ‘green’ using the Victorian Government ‘Healthy choices: food and drink classification guide’.

Monthly sales data from 13 centres between January 2013 to December 2018 were used to evaluate how the policy impacted customers’ purchasing of ‘red’, ‘amber’ and ‘green’ foods and drinks. Over the six-year period, more than 3.6 million food and drink items were sold with outcomes of the policy including:

  • 37% fewer ‘red’ drinks by volume
  • 25% more ‘green’ drinks by volume
  • 2% less sugar in drinks
  • 5% less sugar in foods
  • 15% fewer ‘red’ foods by volume
  • Decreased energy density of foods (1.4kj/g) and drinks (0.32kj/g) sold
  • No change to revenue from food

The evidence that comprehensive community-based healthy food and drink policies improve the healthiness of customer purchases, without revenue from food decreasing, can show real impact for policy makers considering implementing similar policies.

Dr Shaan Naughton, Deakin University

A report on the research findings has been published in PLOS ONE here.