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Geelong Council plans to phase out soft drinks at aquatic, recreation and sport centres

May 30, 2018

The City of Greater Geelong has adopted a policy that will see sweetened and carbonated drinks phased out of its aquatic, recreation and sport centres; community cafes and canteens over the next two years.

Aimed at improving the health of the city’s residents, the City of Greater Geelong’s ‘Healthy Choices - Sugar Sweetened Beverages Strategy’, soft drinks will be withdrawn from Council facilities by the end of 2019.

Backed by a grant from VicHealth to support reducing the amount of soft drink promotion, the initiative will increase promotion of water as the drink of choice for health.

Initially, during this year, the display of soft drinks will be reduced to less than 20% of fridge space in the City’s aquatic, recreation and sport facilities to encourage people to opt for water.

Commenting on the change, Geelong Mayor Bruce Harwood stated “this strategy is about making sure water is displayed more prominently in our leisure centre fridges, while reducing the proportion of sugary drinks on display – encouraging people to make healthier choices.”

The most recent Victorian Population Health Survey shows the Geelong region is the sixth highest consumer of soft drinks in the state.

It also shows a staggering 49% of the local population is overweight or obese, and more than 40% of adolescents consume soft drinks daily.

A February report to Councillors advised that consultation with Geelong region sporting bodies about the proposed soft drink ban had been broadly supported.

It also advised that the “withdrawal of sugar-sweetened beverages” would be “staged” to take into account “leased cafes operating in community facilities (and a) transition in line with future leases renewal/options or via negotiation.”

The report also stated “this initiative means that Greater Geelong will be one of the first Victorian councils to implement a reduction of SSB (sugar sweetened beverage) provision along with the Cities of Corangamite, Wyndham and Melbourne.”

It added that some flavoured milks and 99% fruit juice products with no added sugar, could potentially still be sold - alongside plain and sparkling water - at council venues and that artificially sweetened drinks could also possibly be sold at some facilities, but would be restricted at venues which catered for large numbers of children.

According to the Council report, Lara Pool, Splashdown, the Leisuretime sports precinct and The Arena stadium have all previously made changes to their menus through the introduction of healthier choices.

Lara Pool had demonstrated over the last three seasons that withdrawing sugary drinks from sale did not necessarily result in public backlash or a reduction in canteen profits, the report states.

Lara Football and Netball Club were also acknowledged for already having expressed an interest in withdrawing soft drinks from sale.

In addition to changes in cafes and canteens, vending machines at Council worksites and at other community facilities will be modified to ensure 80% of the drinks on offer are healthy.

Image: The City of Greater Geelong’s ‘Healthy Choices - Sugar Sweetened Beverages Strategy’ aims to reduce soft drink consumption (top) and the Leisuretime sports precinct (below).

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