Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The City of Ottawa Feeds Its Children Junk, Junk and More Junk

Whether it's recreational lessons, figure skating or hockey, I'd venture it's a rare child growing up here in Ottawa who doesn't regularly hit their local City funded and run arenas to skate.

My kids are no exception and this past weekend I decided to take a tour of what the City was offering my kids to eat in the Walter Baker Sport Centre's cafeteria.

Honestly, it was beyond appalling, it's a complete and total embarrassment where the hypocrisy is truly deep fried.

On the one hand we have the City of Ottawa's public health department in their May 2012 report Healthy Eating, Active Living, and Healthy Weights stating,
"Let's work together to create environments that help make the healthier choice, the easier choice."
And on the other hand, there are pretty much no healthful choices being offered for sale in the Walter Baker Sport Centre's cafeteria. Moreover the environment is quite literally designed to make the unhealthy choice the easier choice with a bank of candy machines serving as the cafeteria entrance as well as junk food (candy and chips) taking up the primary counter real estate.  Looking at the menus, there simply aren't healthful choices aside from "salad" - something I didn't actually see there, but again, if the only thing you can point to on a menu as being healthful is salad, your menu simply sucks.  And then of course there are the banks upon banks of vending machines situated it seems every 100-200 ft or so throughout the building.

The hypocrisy is made all the richer given Ottawa's Mayor Jim Watson's former position as Ontario's Minister of Health Promotion.

Think I'm exaggerating? Here's a video walk through of what I saw this past weekend leading me to ask simply, "Where is Health?"

So parents your two choices are clear at Ottawa's publicly funded arenas, and truly there are only two choices - yes to junk food (as that's all they have) or a parental "No".

Gee thanks City of Ottawa. Way to nurture our children.

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  1. This is unreal. However, I remember as a child the highlight of my weekly family trip to the YMCA was the run up to the large bank of vending machines for a soda and candy bar. My parents didn't exactly believe in the parental no. I imagine it was easier to give in than to listen to three very vocal and persistent children whine.

  2. I was at a sports complex/swimming pool ran by the city of Yorkton, SK last month and they actually had signs up stating that outside food was PROHIBITED. How's that for personal choice??? "Come on kids, between hockey games we will eat in the van when it's minus 40 because we can't eat healthy here!"

    It's terrible how profits win again and again over health. Good thing we have free healthcare....

  3. Sounds like Ottawa needs to adopt a Better Bites program like we're doing in Lexington KY!

  4. David Macklin MD9:20 am

    Thanks Yoni, great video. Just to remind everyone of one of the most tragic consequnces of this particular toxic food environemnt is the conditioning that takes place (especially in the children most genetically vulnerable to the process). As dad of three its pretty easy to see how the repeated associations of "skating" with these hyperpalatable foods results in a pavlovian "wanting" everytime my kids go skating.... or swimmimng... or to camp... or to soccer. No wonder childhood obesity rates in kids is increasing despite rising activity levels.

  5. Rebecca9:25 am

    Do you ever get the feeling that the corporations are comprised of aliens fattening up the humans for slaughter? Eerily reminiscent of the way we "grow" animals for human consumption...

  6. "Let's work together to create environments that help make the healthier choice, the easier choice."

    Unfortunately, since health promotion receives only a teeny-tiny sliver of overall healthcare spending....we can't afford to stop selling cheap junk food at our health centres.


  7. That's a common problem- in Canada and in the US too. As Douglas said, there is only so much money put into the overall healthcare budget, but then again, there isn't really that big a difference (cost wise) between an apple and a bag of chips.

  8. On a related topic - vending machines - I saw this rerun of Dragon's Den the other day with a couple of university students trying to market a healthier versions of vending machine:

    The thing that struck me, though, is that the products they were featuring (granola bars and sparkling fruit juice beverages) were only *barely* a step up from chocolate bars and pop. The one thing I did like is the availability of nutritional info on each product on the outside of the machine (know what you're buying before you buy).

    But if you read in the comments, apparently there are already two or three other players in this "healthy vending machine" marketplace.

  9. Anonymous4:48 pm

    This is scary! Calling All Parents - please do something!! As an overweight 42 year old person who constantly struggles with cravings (related to junk consumed during my childhood years) and loss of appetite; I strongly urge you to press for clean and healthy meals...

  10. It should be pointed out as well that the WBSC is attached to a high school. So even if the board of education makes changes to provide more healthy choices in its schools, the kids will still be able to head to this mecca of gluttony to get their sugar, salt and saturated/trans fat fixes.

  11. JennB9:11 am

    Our city has a brand new recreation facility- ice rinks, a weight gym, field houses and a pool- wonderful!- BUT there is also a Dairy Queen within. Also a concession stand with the standard junk food. -- It has honestly appalled me since the day it opened.....I understand the need for funding- but really?

  12. It's unreal to me that The City allows this to happen. Unreal. Just like in schools, the solution to poor funding situations is NOT to sell the health of our children. There has got to be a better way.