By Vivienne Pearson
The contradiction of sporting facilities selling sugar-laden snacks made by huge multinational companies is so accepted that it rarely rates a mention.
For adults participating in sports, having to pass counters filled with calorie- and food-mile laden ‘treats’ is hard enough. For parents, having to deal with the pester-power of their kids (whose height the snacks are often displayed at), can add a real burden to extra-curricular activities.
The Cavanbah Centre, run by Byron Shire Council, recognised this problem and decided to do something different. Over the past year, the centre has transitioned all food and drinks sold to locally sourced.
‘Currently, 63 per cent of products sold are produced within a 100km radius. The rest are all Australian made, with one exception – coconut water,’ says Jesse Tucker, the community facilities coordinator. ‘We eventually aim for 100 per cent local.’
The incentive for the change, according to Jesse, came from public and parent demand. The move also fits with two Council initiatives: Zero Emissions Byron, and updates to the procurement guide that will include looking at the benefits to the local community.
‘Part of what has been great about this is that it’s wonderful to share locally made products with the community, including with people who come to events from other regions and states,’ says Jesse.
Renamed eighteen months ago through a public submission project, the nearly five-year-old centre was previously known as the Byron Regional Sports and Cultural Complex. It hosts sports (ranging from basketball to roller derby), classes (including The Cassettes and capoeira) as well as meetings, workshops and community activities.
Cavanbah means ‘meeting place’, and the Cavanbah Centre sees up to to 2,000 people flow through its doors each week. That’s a lot of people so it’s not surprising that the changes haven’t been universally embraced.
‘There will always be the kids who want their lollies,’ says Jesse. ‘Some people have taken time to get used to what we offer.’
Health is one aspect of the changes, though Jesse recognises that health means different things to different people, so individual choice of snacks is always key. ‘The snacks offered now are relatively healthier,’ says Jesse, ‘but local is the main priority.’
‘Parents in particular are very grateful that there are options for snacks other than a sugary bar – such as tahini or nuts,’ Jesse says. The centre also has a fruit bowl, with pieces selling for only $1.
One such grateful parent is Chrissie Dunsmore from Bangalow, who takes her two daughters to activities at the Cavanbah Centre three to four afternoons each week. ‘It was hard before – I’m trying to educate my kids to be healthy but before they were always lining up for lollies,’ Chrissie says. ‘Now, it’s all good fuelling food, not that quick sugar fix.’ Though health is the main benefit of the changes according to Chrissie, the move to local products is also appreciated. ‘Supporting local businesses is a bonus,’ she says.
Drinks are as important in the new policy as food. Juices sold are now fresh rather than made from concentrate and an Australian-made sports drink option is available. There is also a fresh orange-juice machine in the foyer, where your juice is squeezed before your very eyes! Bottled water is still sold, though the centre has always had a bubbler available for those who prefer their water non-plasticised.
The changes have proved so successful that some people now stop into the centre for a snack even if they aren’t coming for an activity.
Cavanbah Centre, a Byron Shire Council Community facility. Ewingsdale Road. Open M–F 8am–9.30pm, Sat 9am–4pm, Sun 9.30am–4pm. Facebook: @cavanbahcentre
Jesse at the Cavanbah counter – credit Vivienne Pearson