Healthier eating choices now at state parks
Visitors at Delaware’s state parks are now able to choose healthier food and beverage options. As part of a new Nemours Healthy Eating Initiative called “Munch Better at Delaware State Parks,” Delaware’s state parks will offer healthy food items for sale and from vending machines as part of its commitment to promote healthy lifestyles.
“Delaware State Parks are part of a national effort to promote healthy living,” said Gov. Jack Markell. “We are partnering with individuals, organizations and public agencies at all levels to encourage and promote active living for children and adults and reduce obesity.”
“Our state parks offer residents and visitors special places to connect with our natural world in many ways,” said DNREC Deputy Secretary David Small. “Physical activities, such as hiking and biking on our hundreds of miles of trails or observing and interpreting our diverse plant and animal life all can enhance the quality of life for our citizens.
“Now, a more healthy choice of foods for our guests will complement those experiences. We are very appreciative of the support and cooperation of our partners in making this a first in Delaware,” Small said.
“Part of the Division of Parks and Recreation’s mission is to enhance the quality of life for the citizens of Delaware,” said Charles Salkin, director of DNREC’s Division of Parks and Recreation. “Our ‘Munch Better at Delaware State Parks’ initiative is an integral part of our efforts to promote healthier lifestyles for state parks visitors by offering healthier food and beverage choices. Childhood obesity is too prevalent for us not to be an active partner in addressing the issue,” Salkin said.
Using $60,000 in federal stimulus funds, the Division of Parks and Recreation has partnered with Nemours Health and Prevention Services (NHPS), which developed the food and beverage guidelines, and the Delaware Health and Social Services’ Division of Public Health (DPH) – which will monitor the progress of the initiative – to offer healthy food and beverage choices in sales outlets where Parks has direct purchasing authority. These areas include about 15 food and beverage vending machines, four campground stores and the food concession at Killens Pond Water Park.
According to NHPS research and to the best of its knowledge, Delaware State Parks is the only state parks system in the nation to implement an initiative in parks statewide to purchase and make available for sale healthy food and beverage choices at certain state park-operated food and beverage outlets.
NHPS created the Nemours Healthy Concessions Guide and the Healthy Vending Guide based on the most current nutrition science and recommendations of leading health organizations. These were used by the Division to select the products to be purchased for vending, stores and concessions.
“Nemours is concerned about kids in Delaware growing up at a healthy weight,” said Mariane Stefano, managing director of Nemours Service Excellence and NHPS interim executive director. “Our partners at Delaware State Parks recognize that kids need lots of outdoor play and good food to be at their healthiest.
“To that end, they have started a program here that no other state has – offering visitors a new menu with the tastiest, most nutritious foods for their dollar. This is a tremendous investment in the health of our citizens. We thank and commend Delaware State Parks for providing ready access to some of the best fast food available in the great outdoors.”
“If we are to live longer and better in a world with less disease and ill health, then healthy choices need to be the easiest and most affordable choices,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl T. Rattay. “Eating healthy foods and being physically active prevents obesity, and that helps us avoid diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and a number of other health consequences,” Rattay said.
Using the Nemours criteria, food and beverages will be divided into three categories, priced comparably or less expensively than items such as candy and sugared soft drinks, and monitored to determine the impact of the initiative.
Food choices will include snacks from the “Go,” “Slow” and “Whoa” categories developed by NHPS.
“Go” foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are the healthiest options for the calories they contain. Parks will provide options such as bottled water, 1 percent milk, whole-grain rolls and carrot sticks in the “Go” category.
Parks will also offer “Slow” foods, such as diet iced tea, baked chips, nuts, graham crackers and ice cream, which contain added sugar or fat that makes them higher in calories.
“Whoa” foods are the highest in sugar and fat and the least healthy – such as candy bars and sugared sodas.
Through the “Munch Better” initiative, Parks will offer more “Go,” some “Slow” and less “Whoa” foods and beverages. For example, as part of the initiative, for the first year, at least 75 percent of the products sold by Parks will be either a “Go” or a “Slow” food, and no more than 25 percent will be a “Whoa” food.