The short, inaugural season of offering healthy snack options in local arenas may have drawn mixed reactions, but the program is here to stay, says Valley Thrive co-ordinator Carrie Schell.
Data is just now being gathered from canteen operators who took part in the new menu program spearheaded by the Healthy Eating in Recreation Settings committee. The initiative, rolled out in February, was introduced at every arena between Brooklyn, Hants County, and Bridgetown, Annapolis County, with the exception of Windsor, which does not have a canteen. Each arena participated by introducing a menu of healthy food items to their canteens.
Among the offerings were veggies and dip, bagels and cheese, apple slices, yogurt and granola and vegetable chili.
Schell said customers were just getting accustomed to the new menu items “after a good gentle roll-out” of the program. So far, the Apple Dome canteen in Berwick’s Kings Mutual Century Centre is the only one to announce it is pulling out of the program. Canteen operators in Berwick cite “the roll out and costs” as factors for their decision to discontinue the healthy eating menu.
Healthy snacks will continue to be available at the Kings Mutual Century Centre through the Lions Club canteen, however.
“The equipment has been moved downstairs to the Lions kitchen and they plan to keep offering the healthy choices,” said Schell.
Lion Charlie MacDonald, who co-ordinates the canteen, said the club has been offering healthy options for just over a month.
“It’s definitely not been a money-maker so far, but we are going to try and make it work because it is important to have some healthy choices. We will have to see where it goes,” he said.
MacDonald said a weekend cheerleading event at the KMCC garnered decent sales of some items.
“We had several parents and some of the cheerleaders say they appreciated the healthy options.”
Schell said the Brooklyn arena is “doing well” with the program and Kingston’s Credit Union Centre president Wayne Fowler indicated the arena canteen is “hanging in” with the program as well.
Schell said a “paradigm shift” was required to get people thinking about eating healthier options at arenas, which will take time. She says one of the biggest challenges to the program has been for arenas to give up their fryers, which have been a mainstay at rinks for generations.
Some operational issues have also impacted sales of healthy eating options. Schell said the program at the Greenwood Gardens arena is in jeopardy as it is now looking for a canteen operator after the local skating club gave up the role.
“If a canteen is open sporadically, the public doesn’t know what to expect, so the new menu may not go over as well,” she said.
A meeting is planned for canteen operators April 25 where Schell expects to get more information about the experiences of the individual arenas.
“We will ask for their comments and use that information to improve the program in readiness for a re-launch in the fall.”