VicHealth is joining forces with five local councils in a bid to phase out unhealthy food vouchers in kids’ sport.
In a Victorian first, the Healthy Sports Reward initiative will see some junior clubs in the Frankston, Bendigo, Yarra Ranges, Shepparton and Nillumbik council areas replace vouchers for fast food and takeaway with healthy activities, like free or discounted access to a local pool or tennis court.
The project comes as new VicHealth and Deakin University research shows that two -in-three parents think kids’ sports rewards should be healthy. Among the 500 Victorian parents surveyed, just over half (51%) said their children had received a voucher from a large fast-food company at their sports club, and 42% had received one for a local fast-food outlet.
Minister for Health, Martin Foley said it’s important that junior sports clubs promote health and wellbeing among children in their community.
“It’s fantastic to see VicHealth, local councils and sporting clubs working together to create healthier sporting environments for Victorian children.
“This positive initiative will give grassroots clubs and families the chance to celebrate children’s sporting achievements in an active and healthy way.”
VicHealth CEO, Dr Sandro Demaio said we must stamp out unhealthy vouchers to put the health and wellbeing of Victorian children above junk food company profits.
“Rewarding children with vouchers for fast food during sport builds powerful brand associations at a young age and contribute to poor health, now and into adulthood,” Dr Demaio said.
“Families are telling us they want healthier rewards for their children. We’re excited to partner with local Victorian councils to work towards making healthy and fun rewards the norm in junior sport.”
Deakin University Associate Professor, Kathryn Backholer said while unhealthy food vouchers are rife in kids’ sport, most Victorian parents want to see that changed.
“Vouchers for fast food in sport exploit children’s vulnerabilities by creating positive norms around the consumption of unhealthy food. Fast food companies use vouchers to draw families into their restaurants, making them a lot of money at the expense of children’s health,” A/Prof Backholer said.
“All children should be able to enjoy sport free from unhealthy food and drink advertising. The Healthy Sport Rewards project is a positive step towards that goal.”