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Healthy snacks not a money maker, says report
Providing healthier snacks in the vending machines doesn’t make any money, says a new report from the Williams Lake Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex Joint Committee.
Since it switched to vendors that provide healthier snacks and beverages in 2011, the complex has seen a loss of revenue of approximately $7,000 per year.
“We knew going into this that obviously revenue was going to go down,” director of recreation services Geoff Paynton said Friday. “Junk food sells and it sells a lot.”
A year after the city implemented its Healthy Food and Beverage policy, it entered into five-year contracts with vendors, and by the bids that trickled in beforehand it was apparent the city would not make as much money taking the healthy route.
“The vendors knew there’s not the revenue there for them in the healthy food industry,” Paynton said. “ But the reality is it’s better at the end of the day for people and kids. It’s one of those trade offs.”
From all beverages sold from the vending machines through a contract with PepsiCo the complex receives a five per cent commission.
Its other contract, with Blackstock Ventures, sees the complex receive zero per cent commission for healthy snacks and 10 per cent commission on hot beverages.
There was a big move from the provincial government a few years ago to get schools and recreation facilities and public buildings to move in that direction, Paynton recalled.
The CMRC received a Healthy Food and Beverage Grant from the provincial government which provided resources to hire a contractor to audit the snack and beverage machines at the facility, organize user group meetings, communicate with vendors and assist with writing a policy.
“They had discussions with user groups and did some surveys to see what people wanted. It was quite the process at the time,” Paynton said.
City council discussed the report during its regular meeting Tuesday and Coun. Laurie Walters said they knew it would mean losing revenue.
Coun. Surinderpal Rathor said the complex is not there to make money and he would like to see no junk food sold from machines in Williams Lake.
“The complex is there to encourage good health,” Rathor said. “I have talked to numerous parents who are very delighted with what we’re providing to the children. All of us should try and consume healthy food wherever we go.”
The loss in revenue, however, is a cost to taxpayers because the loss has to be covered, Paynton said, whether that’s through tax revenue, cuts or savings somewhere else.
The complex does receive monthly rent from the canteen and is presently in the middle of a five-year contract with Karen’s Place to run the canteen.
“They do a really good job,” Paynton said of Karen’s Place. “They do have the junk food but they do provide salads and healthy alternatives. That was in their agreement with us to provide those as well.”
Ever hopeful the pendulum will swing and one day healthy food will be the number one choice for everyone, Paynton suggested the complex is in the business of promoting a healthy lifestyle.
“Junk food isn’t part of promoting that,” he said.