How many cities are there where you can buy fresh vegetables at the city pool? We can in Lexington, Kentucky! If you followed my advice to watch Well Fed (now available to view online here), you saw the beautiful food served at Veggin’ Out at the Pool. What you didn’t see was the healthy food options regularly available at the pools’ concession stands through the Better Bites program. This is an initiative of the Lexington Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition to make healthier food more widely available in our community.
It started when I attended a coalition meeting in 2010 with Brian Rogers, Deputy Director of Enterprise for the Lexington Department of Parks and Recreation. I shared my frustration about seeing kids drinking the nacho cheese like a beverage and the lack of healthy options at the city pools’ concession stands. Individuals are expected to make a healthy choice but it’s nearly impossible to find anything healthy on a typical concession menu. We worked to expand options from the standard candy, slushies and fries by adding fresh fruit and vegetables.
As Anita Courtney, the Tweens Coalition chairperson, put it:
Because pool concession stands are like kids’ refrigerators and pantries in the summer, stocking them with healthy food can affect their eating habits.
We certainly saw this was the case as candy sales dropped by 23% from the previous year.
So where do we go from here? We’ll continue to expand and improve the Better Bites program at the city pools. We will also try to get healthy options at other places where kids eat like schools, restaurants and play spaces. A $10,000 Healthy Communities grant from the KY Department of Public Health to support Better Bites and Good Neighbor Stores will help us do just that. It’s exciting that Lexington is one of the twenty finalists for the Bloomberg Mayor’s challenge and that Better Bites was one of the suggestions that caught the Mayor’s eye. Look for our new cart to be rolling around town this summer.
Where would you like to see Better Bites show up next?