The commitment of Latrobe Leisure management to healthy eating has seen significant changes occur in all four of their community leisure centres.
Since 2014, Latrobe Leisure has been using the Victorian Government’s Healthy Choices guidelines to increase the availability of healthier foods and drinks in kiosks and cafés at four centres: Moe Newborough, Morwell, Churchill and Traralgon Sports Stadium.
They have been supported by health promotion staff at Latrobe Community Health Service (LCHS) and driven by a commitment from management to ensure that the food and drinks they offer are in line with the healthy lifestyle messages they are promoting to the community.
"We are here to provide a service to the community, helping people make healthier choices should be the most important goal."
Latrobe Leisure Centre manager
In 2015, the Healthy Eating Advisory Service (HEAS) assessed menus from each kiosk or café and recommended changes. Latrobe Leisure staff completed training on the Healthy Choices guidelines and healthier cooking techniques.
A Healthy Eating Working Group, reformed in 2019, drives the healthy eating agenda and involves central management, a representative from each site, a nutritionist from LCHS and overarching support from HEAS.
What has changed?
Menus were reassessed in 2019/20 to see how each centre was progressing towards the target of at least 50% GREEN (Best Choice) items, and no more than 20% RED (Limit) items.
Since 2015, the average amount of GREEN options has increased from 8% to 47%, while the average amount of RED options has reduced from 71% to 30%. More specifically:
- there are more GREEN and AMBER drinks at each outlet, like plain water, water with fruit essence and reduced fat flavoured milk
- the amount of RED soft drinks available has been reduced and sugar free or low sugar sports drinks alternatives are now available
- all centres now offer fresh fruit as well as healthier packaged snacks like popcorn, tuna and mixed nuts
- there are more vegetables on the menu, including sandwiches and salads.
Latrobe Leisure customers are either happy with the new healthy options or not noticing the difference. Initially, RED items made the biggest contribution to total sales overall, however customer purchasing behaviour has shifted. Sugary sports drinks, for example, have reduced in sales, while overall drinks sales have remained stable.
Marketing healthier choices
In addition to menu changes, all centres removed any signage and branding that was associated with unhealthy foods or drinks. Fridge displays favour healthier items, like bottled water, and deep-fried options have been removed from display.
‘Make a Healthier Choice’ signage and ‘traffic light talkers’ help customers identify and choose healthier options with messages such as ‘GREEN: Make mum proud’ and ‘AMBER: on the fence’.
Latrobe Leisure is committed to long-term change. Healthy Choices guidelines have been embedded into the tender for the Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre that is under construction and work is underway on an organisation-wide healthy eating policy. Staff continue to identify opportunities to provide and promote healthier food and drink options in their kiosks and café, as well as sourcing healthier options from local suppliers.