Health and Wellbeing Queensland (HWQld) has today launched a new Strategy to address the lack of healthy food and drinks available in Queensland’s sports clubs and arenas, with experts saying the changes aim to create better balance in the availability and promotion of healthier options.
The new Strategy, developed in partnership with the Queensland Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport and co-designed with the state’s sports and recreation sector, is part of HWQld’s A Better Choice initiative to implement healthier food and drink options across the state and follow recent findings which uncovered community need.
The Queensland Consumer Market Research for Food Environment study*, commissioned by HWQld, revealed 66% of Queensland parents surveyed recognised the importance of having healthier options at local sports clubs and 57% wanted to see them available for their own children, whilst the top 3 barriers to choosing healthy food and drink options were cost, lack of options and ease of accessibility.
“With 1 in 4 Australian children above a healthy weight and our sports settings continuing to be saturated with unhealthy food and drinks, the introduction of healthier practices into the sports sector has been a long time coming,” HWQld Chief Executive, Dr Robyn Littlewood said.
The introduction of A Better Choice Food and Drink Supply Strategy for Queensland Sport and Recreation Facilities will roll out across thousands of clubs and arenas across the state, recommending they make change by first updating menus across 4 key focus areas: healthy drinks, healthy snacks, healthier meals and options beyond the menu.
“Every year, these clubs see hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders as members, players, and visitors, bringing together many families, children and individuals. They play an important role in promoting physical activity and it’s crucial these environments make healthier food options both more accessible and affordable,” Dr Littlewood said
“Clubs and facilities introducing A Better Choice will have access to the tools and resources they need to give their members, players and visitors healthier food options and ultimately, contribute to a healthier and happier Queensland.”
Leading public health nutritionist, Mathew Dick, who has extensively explored and contributed to public policy into healthy communities, added that whilst the benefits of healthier food options in sporting clubs are great, the ways to achieve them can be relatively straightforward.
“Sports clubs and recreational facilities can embark on getting better balance by making small, achievable changes that provide healthier alternatives for players and their families,” he said.
“Some of the simple changes these guidelines recommend are making tap water free and readily available or placing water at eye level in customer facing fridges, introducing healthier half-time snacks like fruit and veggies options, making fruit more readily available across club or venue areas, and adding more vegetables into some of the menu favourites.”
Queensland Rugby League State Operations Manager, Darren Schooth said, “For a long time, clubs have offered the same food and drink options and these rarely include options that are both healthy and affordable. We’re hoping that with these new guidelines, healthy eating at clubs for players, volunteers, staff and spectators can be a much easier box to tick for clubs.”
“Kids in particular are often hungry after their games and it will be a big leap forward, to know they can fulfil that post-game hunger with healthy and balanced meals. Small changes like having milk or water instead of soft drink and fruit salad instead of lollies are going to make a big difference.”
HWQld is working to increase the accessibility, affordability, desirability and convenience of healthier food and drink options for Queenslanders in food environments outside of the home through various initiatives, programs and resources in sporting clubs and stadiums, and in schools and healthcare facilities.
The new Food and Drink Strategy for Sport and Recreation is available at hw.qld.gov.au/a-better-choice/sport-and-recreation.
*Sample size 1,255 Queensland parents aged 18 years and over. The Queensland Consumer Market Research for Food Environment study (2022)