Several regional recreation centres make a healthy switch

Kitchen Garden Foundation Healthy Kids Advisors have taken an innovative, fresh approach to energise large sports and recreation facilities to adopt positive food variety for visiting families and young athletes.

Sixteen major centres have joined the initiative, impacting tens of thousands of children and young people across the state.

Congratulations to the following centres for choosing fresh water as the primary source of hydration and championing nourishing snacks in the kiosk and during match days:

  • Bendigo Regional Hockey Complex
  • Bendigo Regional Tennis Centre
  • Bluewater Leisure Centre (Colac)
  • Craigieburn Sports Stadium
  • Aquamoves Lakeside
  • Shepparton Basketball Stadium
  • Bairnsdale Aquatic and Recreation Centre
  • Peter Krenz Leisure Centre (Bendigo)
  • Hamilton Indoor Leisure & Aquatic Centre
  • Portland Leisure and Aquatic Centre
  • Dandenong Stadium
  • Springers Leisure Centre (Keysborough)
  • Dandenong Oasis
  • Noble Park Aquatic Centre
  • Maryborough Sports & Leisure Centre
  • Stawell Sports and Aquatic Centre.

Two examples of how these recreation centres have served their communities can be seen at Bairnsdale Aquatic and Recreation Centre and Hamilton Indoor Leisure & Aquatic Centre. Children, young people, and their families feel the benefits of these centres’ tastier, more nutritious variety.

A sporting hub in the heart of East Gippsland

Bairnsdale is a quiet city in the East Gippsland Shire, close to the beach and the mountains. The Bairnsdale Aquatic and Recreation Centre (BARC) serves Bairnsdale and its surrounds, with over 80,000 visitors each quarter. BARC is home to multiple sports clubs, with indoor basketball, swimming pools, soccer and volleyball facilities.

Kristina, the Healthy Kids Advisor for East Gippsland, met with BARC to achieve their healthy food and drink goals, focusing on ideas to source local suppliers and promote fresh, nutritious options made on-site in the centre’s café.

Kristina was introduced to BARC through her involvement with the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) partnership, which is a central initiative providing over 40 key stakeholders in the East Gippsland community with an opportunity to connect over like-minded ambitions. Lilly Hodge, formally the Youth Engagement Project Officer for the East Gippsland Shire, connected Kristina to Holly Stephenson, Customer Service Team Leader at BARC.

“Holly has an amazing attitude and wanted to promote healthier options in the café,” says Kristina. “We’re adding wholesome snack options, like muesli bars, protein balls, and freeze-dried fruits, and we’ve sourced fresh sushi from a local business. Next, we’ll switch some ice creams to healthier options with less sugar, such as frozen yoghurts.”

Kristina and Holly have achieved two ‘small bites’ under the Vic Kids Eat Well guidelines. They’ve kept confectionary and ultra-processed snacks out of sight and minimised fried foods by introducing an air fryer.

They plan to introduce even more positive changes to the menu, including homemade meals packed with fresh and nutritious ingredients. These items will include tasty pasta bakes, vegetable rice cups, hearty soups, pasta salads, banana bread, and focaccias.

Setting an example in the Southern Grampians

Another region benefiting from the immediate impact of simple menu changes can be seen through the combined work from our Healthy Kids Advisor for the Southern Grampians Shire, Monique Sobey, and the Coordinator of Leisure Facilities, Di Dixon, at Hamilton Indoor Leisure & Aquatics Centre (HILAC).

HILAC hosts the local basketball association and has two indoor swimming pools, table tennis and squash facilities and a gym. All the swimming clubs in the shire are run out of this facility. In fact, most children and young people in the shire attend the centre weekly.

Monique and Di identified ways to improve the menu at the HILAC Café and decided to trial the new selection of healthy options at a basketball tournament for the Under 12 and Under 18 teams and their families­. This was an ideal opportunity to gauge community satisfaction in a contained, time-limited environment.

The tournament menu of pasta salads, fruit cups, popcorn, granola and yoghurt, soup and BBQ chicken steaks with coleslaw was a hit! The positive feedback from the community strengthened the confidence in Di to commit to long-term changes to the café menu and work with Monique to further progress through the Vic Kids Eat Well framework. So far, they’ve achieved 7 of the 12 relevant Vic Kids Eat Well small bites and are deeply invested in completing the remaining milestones.

Since the basketball tournament, the café has purchased low-cost kitchen equipment to prepare smoothies and make 100% fruit juice icy poles. These homemade icy poles have become the biggest-selling frozen item at the café, leading to ice creams being replaced entirely.

Other successes are the air-fried sweet potato chips and mini pizzas, which have significantly reduced the sale of deep-fried food. Di and her staff regularly promote menu changes and ‘meal deals’ on their active social media channels to build awareness and generate excitement in the community.

About the Healthy Kids Advisors initiative 

The Healthy Kids Advisors initiative is delivered by the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation and supported by the Victorian Government and Australian Government.

This community engagement initiative is active in 13 priority communities to spread pleasurable food education and encourage participation in the state-wide Vic Kids Eat Well movement.

In collaboration with local health promoters, Council and community, our Advisors offer free support and simple ideas to boost healthy and delicious food and drink in schools, sports clubs, after-hours care and council-run facilities.

Want more information?

Visit the Healthy Kids Advisors news page or contact us at

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