Vic-first project halts junk food vouchers in kids’ sport

VicHealth is joining forces with 5 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.

This much-needed project comes as new VicHealth and Deakin University researchi shows 2 in 3 parents think kids’ sports rewards should be healthy. Among the 500 Victorian parents surveyed, 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,” Ms 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.”

Case study:

As junior winter sports like football and basketball kick off, Frankston mum of 3 Tammy Aitken says rewards for healthy activities would be a welcome change.

“I work hard to encourage my kids to fuel their bodies in a healthy way. When they get vouchers for fast food and takeaway after playing sport, it goes against everything I try to teach them. Of course, if one of my kids gets a voucher, the others want to eat that food too. I would love to see sports clubs give out rewards for healthy, fun activities.”

The VicHealth and Deakin University survey of parents also found:

  • Half of all parents surveyed had a child who had received an unhealthy food voucher in sport.
  • Among those who received a voucher:
    • Half of the parents would prefer their children did not receive voucher
    • 40% reported the voucher use prompted a first time visit to the fast food/takeaway business
    • 65% of families ended up spending more than the voucher amount when redeeming it
    • In 38% of cases, the voucher was used by the child, 34% by the family, and only 19% were not used at all.

About Healthy Sports Rewards:

VicHealth is committed to sporting clubs being places that are active, healthy and socially connected. The Healthy Sports Rewards project is just one part of this. To get involved:

Parents: Become an active part of Parents’ Voice, an online movement of parents who are interested in improving the food and activity environments of Australian children: Join here

Sports clubs: contact your local council about how they can support your club to shift to healthier rewards.

Local councils: contact VicHealth via our website to learn more:

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