Healthy Eating Local Policies and Programs (HELPP)

What is HELPP?

The Healthy Eating Local Policies and Programs project or HELPP is a statewide project that has been running since 2011 – led by the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Flinders University and funded by SA Health.

What is the HELPP project about?

HELPP works with local government and community organisations across the state to support:

  • development and implementation of healthy eating policies
  • delivery and evaluation of healthy eating programs.

HELPP also supports the Go for 2&5® and Swap It Don’t Stop It campaigns that encourage people to eat more fruit and vegetables and swap unhealthy eating and lifestyle behaviours for healthier ones.

Why should local councils and community organisations have a healthy eating policy?

Unfortunately, many South Australians do not eat a healthy diet.

Too many people:

  • don’t eat enough vegetables and fruit
  • eat too many unhealthy snacks like potato crisps, hot chips, chocolate and lollies, buns, pastries, cakes and biscuits
  • eat too much food high in saturated and trans fat, added salt and added sugar
  • consume too many sugary drinks like soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks instead of water.

Furthermore, not enough babies are breastfed for long enough.

Local councils and community organisations can help local residents and their own staff eat a healthier diet and make healthy eating the easy choice.

The best way for organisations to provide leadership in this area is to develop and implement a healthy eating policy. This sets a good example and sends a positive message to the community about healthy living.

A healthy eating policy needs to have a two-pronged approach:

  1. Increasing the availability and promotion of healthy food and water and
  2. Reducing the availability and promotion of unhealthy food and drinks.

The process of developing a policy also helps staff to think about the way the organisation uses and promotes food in its own activities.

But a policy needs to be more than words on paper. It needs to be a ‘living’ philosophy – known by everyone who works in the organisation and used as part of everyday decision making. It should also be reviewed periodically to see if it is working or needs improving.

Local councils can also promote healthy eating through their planning roles.

Which councils have healthy eating policies?

In December 2011, HELPP partnered with the Local Government Association of South Australia (LGA), the Heart Foundation, SA Health and the OPAL project to run a seminar about healthy eating policies in local government.

In conjunction with this, the LGA adopted a Healthy Catering Policy for staff and visitors to Local Government House in Adelaide.

A number of councils across South Australia have now adopted, or are in the process of developing, similar healthy eating policies.

Which community organisations have a healthy eating policy?

HELPP is also working with Community Centres SA and other local organisations, on the best way to introduce a healthy eating policy to their local communities.

What’s in a healthy eating policy?

The scope of a policy can be broad, and can cover both staff and visitors to a council or community organisation premises. Organisations may start with the areas they feel are most important or will most easily get the support of staff.

Examples of areas that can be covered by a healthy eating policy include:

  • providing only healthy food for meetings, events and conferences
  • providing only healthy food in group activities and programs involving the public
  • providing healthy food for sale in council-owned facilities such as recreation centres
  • providing water fountains instead of drinks vending machines
  • replacing fundraising based on unhealthy foods (such as chocolates) with non-food based fundraising or by selling healthy food such as fruit
  • avoiding sponsorship from unhealthy foods and beverages for facilities, events, materials etc.
  • encouraging (or requiring) groups that receive council funding to provide healthy food
  • Encouraging groups using council or community organisation venues to provide healthy food
  • Welcoming breastfeeding on premises
  • Supporting women to continue to breastfeed on their return to work after having a baby
  • supporting the community in learning more about healthy eating as part of relevant programs for people of all ages run by councils and community organisations
  • educating staff about healthy eating, and assisting staff to understand why healthy eating policies are important by encouraging staff to:
  • think about their own health
  • support the organisation’s healthy eating policy
  • positively communicate the reason for the healthy eating policy to the community.

Councils can support breastfeeding for mothers (staff, members and visitors) by providing a breastfeeding friendly place on site and supporting the Breastfeeding Welcome Here program.

This program’s criteria for breastfeeding friendly venues are:

  • a welcoming attitude from staff and management
  • a smoke free environment
  • room to move a pram.

Healthy eating programs run by local councils and community organisations

Many community members are interested in learning more about healthy eating. This can involve learning about:

  • planning what to eat and prepare
  • shopping wisely – selecting nutritious, value-for-money foods
  • storing food at home and reducing wastage
  • food safety and handling
  • preparing delicious meals and snacks
  • knowing about healthy eating.

If organisations already run food-related education programs or are thinking of developing one but don’t know where to start, Healthy Eating Local Policies and Programs can:

  • help to develop a food policy to support the organisation’s goals around healthy eating
  • help to identify the needs of participants (making sure the programs deliver what participants want)
  • help strengthen or add value to existing programs
  • help with access to best practice nutrition education programs
  • help with tools to evaluate programs to know what works and what doesn’t
  • help package and distribute programs statewide (i.e. don’t ‘reinvent the wheel’).

HELPP promotes healthy eating across the community

A key focus of the program is to promote eating more fruit and vegetables as part of healthy meals and snacks, and drinking water instead of sugary drinks (soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks).

In February, HELPP organises Fruit ‘n’ Veg Month with an on-line challenge to encourage people to take a healthy lunchbox to work.

This includes healthy lunchbox demonstrations to help people to pack a healthy lunch, and a manual with all the information you need to set up a healthy lunch box demonstration.

How can I contact HELPP?

The HELPP team is based at Flinders University at Science Park.

Phone: (08) 7421 9975