Lawrence parks to have healthier concession food

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department is working on a policy that will require at least half of the food sold at city-owned concession stands and recreation centers to meet federal nutrition guidelines, in order to promote healthier living.

“That’s really the business we’re in,” said Ernie Shaw, head of the department. “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.”

The change probably will start next year, the Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/19Ohao0 ).

Along with such staples as cheeseburgers, hot dogs and chips, the new policy would require concession stands to offer at least one fresh fruit or vegetable and healthy beverages such as water, 1 percent or fat-free milk, or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices with no added caloric sweeteners. The food would have 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 awarded the concessionaire’s contract for next year will decide what types of healthy food to offer, said Tim Laurent, recreation operations manager.

“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.”

The policy also requires that healthy foods be priced the same or less than comparable products that don’t meet the health guidelines.

Lori Howell, the catering manager for Hy-Vee, said the company offered salads, fruit and other healthy items at the concession stands three years ago 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 nearby Johnson County has had success with a similar policy and effective marketing will be the key to success.

“Going out and saying ‘look at our healthy choices,’ may not be the way to go,” he said. “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.”

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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