Regional leisure centre refreshes its menu
Stawell Sports and Aquatic Centre (SSAC) is located in a historic gold mining town in the Northern Grampians, Victoria. The centre is an important meeting place for families and youth. Children and young people can join sports competitions, basketball, squash and Swim School. The popular outdoor pool, with two water slides, is the place to be during the summer school holidays.
SSAC is the first venue in the Northern Grampians Shire to partner with Lauren Dempsey — the locally-based Healthy Kids Advisor for the region. Lauren is joining forces with the centre staff to provide hands-on support to participate in the Vic Kids Eat Well movement.
Together, they’ve revitalised the menu at the sports kiosk, which is now brimming with fresh variety and long-life snacks to promote good health and vitality in their little athletes.
Linking to Council goals
SSAC is a council-owned sports facility. The Northern Grampians Shire Council wanted to make simple changes to the centre’s food and drinks that would link to their healthy eating and active living goals in their Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan.
“The aquatic centre is a perfect example of how the Council prioritises healthy options for the youth of the Shire. We’re hoping the work we’ve done here with Lauren can highlight the benefits to the community and show them that healthy changes can be sustainable and at no additional cost.”
Zander McDougall, Manager of Active Communities
Northern Grampians Shire
Zander is proud to have SSAC leading the way for other local sports clubs to follow. “We’re changing the perception that after sport, you need a sugary or unhealthy snack,” he said. “There are healthy, tasty options out there, and the kids of Northern Grampians Shire are happy about that and understand the benefits.”
Barriers to fresh food
Due to the 3-hour distance from central Melbourne, maintaining a stable supply of fresh produce for the Stawell community has been a recurring struggle for this Shire. Covid disruptions further impacted food supply, with many local cafés and suppliers closing or ceasing their distribution services. The centre staff also spoke about the wastage of fresh food items due to constant centre closures and disruptions from the Covid lockdowns.
Based on these experiences, Lauren was asked to devise a new, profitable plan for the kiosk. She completed a Vic Kids Eat Well action plan with SSAC Manager Sam Winter, prioritising the selection and sourcing of nutritious, tasty shelf-stable snacks.
Switching to healthier snacks
After swimming lessons, children’s hunger levels are high! Lauren knew it was important to offer snacks at the kiosk that were appealing to young people and nutritious too.
Lauren began by researching healthy snack options with a shelf life ranging from 1-2 weeks to 18 months. Some options included lightly salted popcorn, whole-seed crackers, low-sugar muesli bars and dehydrated chickpeas.
A selection of simple, high-demand fresh snacks was also gathered, drawing on recipes from the Shared Table — the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation’s online resource library for members of the Kitchen Garden Program. Lauren suggested simple yoghurt and muesli cups, colourful smoothies and rich soups, fruit salads and veggie sticks with hummus.
These items were cross-checked with the Healthy Choices guidelines. Storage recommendations, allergen information and suggested portion sizes were also noted.
Refreshing the drink selection
Working with staff, Lauren reviewed the number of sugary drinks offered at the centre and reprioritised their prominence in the fridge display. Soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks now only make up a small portion of the fridge and have been rearranged to be away from eye level.
The healthiest drink options are now the main attraction of the fridge display. Plain water, flavoured waters with no added sugar, and some reduced-fat flavoured milks are located where children notice them first and can access them easily. There are more healthy drinks on their way!
The healthy new items were great choices for the centre. Best of all, their long shelf-life meant there would be a decreased risk of wastage. But would these new menu options appeal to families and young visitors to SSAC?
Lauren set up a community engagement activity in the foyer so SSAC members and visitors could vote on the new menu items they wanted most. Over two weeks, the tally board increased. Lauren captured the data and presented the results to Sam, the Centre Manager. Fruit salad cups, lightly salted popcorn and breakfast smoothies were the winners!
With product sourcing underway, soon, the menu will be in full swing so families can enjoy the refreshing change to their children’s post-swim snacks.
To celebrate and promote the exciting new offerings, Lauren is teaming up with SSAC for their community Open Day on Sunday, 27th November. Families can have a spin on the smoothie bike, invent smoothie recipes for the kiosk, enjoy stadium games, a pool party and plenty of prizes.
“The values of the Foundation will help bring the Open Day to life. We’ll be reinvigorating the planter boxes out the front of the centre and encouraging children and adults to try some seasonal fruit in their smoothies. They can also have a bit of a workout on the smoothie bike!”
Lauren Dempsey, Healthy Kids Advisor — Northern Grampians
With summer just around the corner, keeping the ice cream freezer fully stocked is important! The next healthy eating goal is to introduce reduced-fat, frozen yoghurt and naturally sweet fruit-based products to the freezer section — all bursting with flavour.
SSAC has paved the way for other sports facilities in the Northern Grampians by showing them that collaborating with the Healthy Kids Advisors initiative can bring simple, community-focused solutions for local families and young people. The centre will continue to work with Lauren to achieve recognition as part of the Vic Kids Eat Well movement.
About the Healthy Kids Advisors initiative
The Healthy Kids Advisors initiative is delivered by the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and supported by the Victorian Government and Australian Government.
This community engagement initiative is active in the Northern Grampians and 12 other priority communities to spread pleasurable food education and encourage participation in the state-wide Vic Kids Eat Well movement.
In collaboration with local health promoters and the Northern Grampians Shire Council, Lauren Dempsey offers free support and simple ideas to boost healthy and delicious food and drink in schools, sports clubs, after-hours care and council-run facilities.
This video was filmed on the lands of the Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali People.
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