Eat Smart in Parks Toolkit

Eat Smart in Parks featured snacks sign

Parks are often the first places where children and youth learn to play a sport, ride a bike or cast a line. Parks are also places where children and youth can learn to start making healthy choices when choosing a snack, drink or meal. But parks must offer these items in their food service operations first. To help parks begin to identify healthy menu choices, partners from across the state, including Missouri State Parks, DHSS, MOCAN and MPRA, along with representatives from state and local parks, concessionaires and health advocates, developed healthy model guidelines for concessions in Missouri parks.

The nutrition guidelines in this toolkit help you set a standard for the foods and drinks offered in your parks. The guidelines contain measures that can help boost the availability of healthy choices at parks.By adopting these nutritional and marketing standards, Missouri can become a frontrunner in championing great parks, great food and great park experiences.

Written in plain language, these nutritional guidelines are designed for park staff and others who are interested in offering tastier, healthy foods.Food groups are broken into categories: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Dairy and Proteins as well as Beverages. Recommendations are made for serving sizes, as well as the highest thresholds for fat, sugar and sodium. Moreover, the policy guidelines consider revenues by offering recommendations for signage, display and pricing of items.

While the model guidelines are intended for any park in Missouri, we know that each park is unique. Your park may be able to initially offer a few healthy items, or it may be possible to fully implement the model guidelines. For example, your park might decide to begin by:

  • Placing at least one healthy item or meal on the children’s menu;
  • Adding a new healthy item to the menu each season;
  • Or, posting the calorie content of each menu item.

Educating or training staff on the food service changes is a great first step. Making the overall objective of the food service changes clear and visible by posting it in kitchens or concession stands will help staff stay on the same page, especially in high turnover locations. You may also want to include the staff in the planning healthy menu changes to let them know that their ideas are valuable and to increase cooperation. We know that for many parks, this is a brand new undertaking, but you are not alone.

We are available to provide support and guidance for park concessionaires who embark on this journey toward better health. We are here to help and connect you with other people or resources as you get started.

Check out the ESIP success story below and see the Further info tab below for news coverage of ESIP success stories from around the state