| 2015 Q1 | story by MEGAN GILLILAND | photos provided by CITY OF LAWRENCE |
Did you know that the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department (LPRD) was the first community in the state of Kansas to enact department-wide nutritional standards for all of their facilities? Since 2014, the department has required food vendors, in concessions and vending machines, to provide options for healthy food and drinks that meet nutritional standards set by LPRD. The healthy choices are just one way the city is seeking ways to improve the community’s overall health.
“By instituting these nutritional standards, we hope to encourage healthier lifestyles by offering smarter food choices,” said Tim Laurent, recreation operations manager. “People are seeing choices like salads and wraps what haven’t been at our concession stands before.”
The nutritional standards include a requirement that at least 50 percent of the foods offered must fall below a certain calorie threshold for snacks and entrees. Additionally, guidelines have been set to limit amounts of fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium in food choices.
Some of the food choices, which meet the new nutritional guidelines, are now offered at Sports Pavilion Lawrence. These choices include low-fat yogurt parfaits and smoothies, lemon-pepper chicken wrap, smoked turkey sandwich, flatbread pizza and a fresh-fruit salad.
The department’s efforts toward building a healthier community have been recognized by state and local organizations as a model for other communities to follow. Lawrence Parks and Recreation has been recognized with awards by Governor Sam Brownback’s Council on Fitness, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas and KaBoom!/The Humana Foundation for their healthy programs and initiatives. LPRD is a founding member of the community coalition LiveWell Lawrence and has developed partnerships with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, USD 497, Bert Nash Mental Health Center, K-State Research and Extension, Douglas Food Policy Council and several local businesses and organizations to promote healthy lifestyles.
“It is critical that children understand the need to live a healthy lifestyle,” said Ernie Shaw, Interim Director of Lawrence Parks and Recreation. “Since 2013, we’ve provided a program in our summer playground camps called OrganWise Guys.”
The OrganWise Guys is an interactive, science-based education program that uses characters based on the organs of the body to teach children about nutrition. The OrganWise Guys program was introduced to Lawrence Parks and Recreation through a grant received from the National Recreation and Park Association through the Kansas Health Foundation.
With more than 450 programs available to local residents, LPRD offers opportunities for people to get fit or live a healthier lifestyle. Most of the programs focus on physical health, however, new programs have recently been added which integrate nutritional education and wellness.
The department offers a wide variety of fitness classes at varying levels of intensity and times to fit most schedules. Recreation and sports instruction classes and leagues are available throughout the year. Water aerobics classes are offered year-round.
“Our programs run the gamut for intensity and skill levels. We have high-intensity cardio and core workouts for those really wanting to kick up their activity level,” Shaw said. “Our classes are very reasonable and last eight-to-ten weeks.”