Summer is here; time to get active with the great summer recreation programs Lane County residents enjoy.
Whether your favorite destination is Willamalane’s Splash or Eugene’s Amazon Pool, you know your family will be able to play, swim and socialize in a safe environment that promotes healthy activity. With our children facing obesity rates of 24 percent – higher than the national average – it is critical that families have places for kids to be physically active, and our regional recreation sites offer great ways to keep our kids moving.
Unfortunately, many of these same sites harbor unintended traps that contribute to the obesity epidemic – the ever present “junk food” offered in vending machines and at the concession stand. “Cheesy” nachos, hot dogs, candy and, of course, soda are the generally accepted food staples of many summer play destinations. While these snacks are fine for the occasional treat they are often the only on-site food options available to visiting families and kids participating in organized programs.
According to recent studies, kids ages 2 – 18 now get approximately 40 percent of their total daily calories from sugars and fats added to food products. About half of those calories come from kids consuming things like soda that have no nutritious value. To burn off the calories in an ice cream sandwich or plate of nachos, your child would have to swim strenuously for over an hour. With thousands of kids visiting our recreation centers this summer, many at risk for being overweight or obese, we need to recognize the real health threat posed by these “junk food” traps and start to replace them with healthier options.
Progress is being made: This summer, Amazon Pool has a new food vendor offering healthy, appealing options that meet nutrition standards for total calories, fat, sugar and sodium. These standards were created for the Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth by a local committee of professional dieticians. With LCHAY’s support, Amazon Pool has also phased out sugary drinks from programs that provide snacks to kids. So far, the response has been positive. Those families who want to enjoy a sugary treat can still bring their own food to the pool, while other parents are grateful that their efforts to keep their kids on a healthy diet are not undermined by a trip to the snack bar.
In the scheme of things, a move to healthy vending may seem like a small change, but it is these kinds of community-based changes that are needed to lower the dial on the childhood obesity epidemic. Creating a healthier community where pre-teens aren’t developing diabetes and heart disease means increasing kids’ access to nutritious food along with increased physical activity. By working with local recreation centers to adopt healthy vending policies, LCHAY is seeking to create a community where the healthy choice is the easy choice.
You, too, can be a part of this mini-revolution. Let your favorite recreation center know that you support healthy vending and want to see more healthy options in the vending machine and at the snack bar. You’ll be contributing to a healthier future for our children.
When she wrote this article, Claire Syrett was executive director of the Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth. Learn more about LCHAY’s work to prevent childhood obesity through advocacy and action. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families through parent support and education. Explore this website or call 541-484-5316. Family Info Line is also available; call 211, extension 5, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org/