Youth leagues not giving up on concession stand makeover

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By Stevie Lowery

Healthier food options at concession stands are not necessarily a fan favorite, but local youth sports leagues haven’t given up on trying to offer more nutritious options.
Last year, the Marion County Fitness and Nutrition Coalition received a $10,000 grant, which was used to purchase glass front refrigerators for each of the concession stands at the baseball, softball and soccer fields and the Lebanon Aquatic Center. The new refrigerators were used to stock fruits, vegetables, yogurts and other healthier items, which were part of the “FAN Favorites” menu. However, too many fruits and vegetables were being thrown away, according to Marion County Little League President Will Knight.
“We as a board were very optimistic about offering the FAN Favorites options,” Knight said in an email to the Enterprise. “Since we have limited funding and cannot afford to operate at a loss, we also work to offer the most popular/demanded choices that we can at our concession stands at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, over the season last year, we threw away more of the fruits and vegetables than we sold and we have to be fiscally responsible with the league’s money.”
As a result, Knight said the Little League had to stop offering yogurt and fresh fruit, but they do still offer baked chips and have reduced the amount of candy offered. They also offer water and Powerade as an alternative to soft drinks, he said. People are also allowed to bring food to the park, and he encourages families to bring healthier snacks with them if that’s what they prefer.
“We are a youth sports organization so by nature we promote physical activity, family involvement, and hopefully a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “While we would like to encourage children to eat healthier, at some point it’s about personal choices and parental decisions.”
Marion County Youth Soccer President Chad Hood said the soccer league also plans to continue offering some of the Fan Favorite items. This past season the league experienced problems with the refrigerator. The cooling fans on the unit broke and he said it took approximately six months to get it repaired. As a result, they didn’t carry any of the vegetables, fruit or yogurt, which needed to be refrigerated. However, the soccer league did sell and will continue to sell baked chips, pretzels, sunflower seeds and bottled water.
“In the fall, we’ll stock the refrigerator with apple juice and Go-Gurt, which have sold well and try to get the peanut butter and jelly Uncrustables back,” Hood said.
Lebanon Aquatic Center Director Charlsie Pearl Garrett said she completely got rid of its slushies, and continues to offer healthier options, such as baked chips, two fruits, Go-Gurts, string cheese, 100-calorie bags of popcorn, pretzels and water. But, they were also throwing away a lot of fruits and vegetables.
“We’re trying to give everybody an option,” she said. “And we did train the staff to be good role models and eat the healthy snacks. That has helped a lot.”
Jessica Spalding Bickett, registered dietitian with the Lincoln Trail District Health Department and a member of the FAN Coalition, said she sincerely hopes the sports leagues and aquatic center continue to promote the healthier food and beverage options.
“With a little effort and marketing, these foods can do well,” she said. “I think they will see that they can make money from these items, not just break even, with a little effort.”