In a show of leadership in the battle against obesity and type 2 diabetes, Auckland council is dropping sugar-sweetened drinks from vending machines at council-run leisure centres.
Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town says, “We operate 21 leisure centres that are community-led, and we work hard to encourage Aucklanders to be more active more often in the world’s most liveable city."
"It just doesn’t fit to sell sugary drinks in places where we are trying to support healthier lifestyles."
The council is eliminating 340kg a year of refined sugar – equating to 85,000 sugar cubes – from its vending machine sales. This will be achieved by replacing three-quarters of the drinks on offer (11,000 out of 15,000 total sales in 15 vending machines).
“We’re not telling people what to drink, but we are offering them better choices in our facilities that are focused on health,” says Mr Town.
Water, unflavoured milk, 100 per cent fruit juice, diluted fruit juice with no added sugar and artificially sweetened soft drinks will be offered.
Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura Manager Ben Youdan applauds the council’s move, saying activating local and industry leadership is key to addressing sugar-related health issues.
“Auckland Council is a lead partner in our local Healthy Families Manukau, Manurewa-Papakura movement. This is a fantastic demonstration of their strong commitment to drive transformative changes that will positively affect the health of our communities,” he says.
Most of the council vending machines are located in south Auckland, in a legacy from pre-amalgamation days.
Ōtara resident and World Amateur and NZ National Body Board champion Mihi Nemani backs the change.
“Replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with healthier options makes complete sense and will help to endorse the whole healthy mindset,” says Mihi.
“Cheap fizzy drinks are readily available in our local shops at prices that undercut any healthy option. By council making this decision, we’re helping to remove another obstacle for our community in spaces that are trying to encourage and support healthier lifestyles.”
The removal of sugar-sweetened drinks will roll out by October 2016, with all centres offering healthier choices in time for the peak summer season.
Auckland Council operates or licences out the operation of a number of other food operations, both within leisure centres and elsewhere.
“We are having ongoing discussions with relevant partners and suppliers over the provision of healthy choices across all areas of council operations,” says Stephen Town.