During the mayoral debate last month, there was a question about the Region adopting a health eating policy. It would apply to all events the Region holds, but one of the key areas would be at Queens Place Emera Centre. Not much was said, beyond it would be looked at. It's certainly not the number one priority in the community, but it is an important one.
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The one part of Queens Place that really hasn't hit the "healthy living" ideal presented is its canteen. Though not fully operational yet, it's looking to be standard arena type food. After all, chips, pop and mozza sticks are not healthy eating. Very little healthy food comes out of the deep fryer.
During the debate one candidate suggested the elementary students already have healthy eating figured out. Maybe so, but if that's true then Queens Place will be behind the curve. If it's not true, it becomes a part of the problem.
The potential for something truly different is there though. The kitchen is fully equipped to make just about anything that comes out of a restaurant. It's basically as turn key as you can get. Right now though, it's barely being used.
The Region of Queens was presented a healthy food policy a little over two years ago, before construction of Queens Place had started. It was rejected for many reasons, but the strongest were: it takes away choice, and nobody would eat it. Unfortunately it was rejected completely as well, and unless something has changed since then there wasn't even an attempt to adapt it.
A healthy food policy on its own though wouldn't cut it. Healthy food is not the easiest thing to make. Bad french fries will outsell a good salad when put side by side, especially if they are at an arena. It takes some real planning to pull it off, but it can be done.
To make tasty healthy food takes a skilled hand. You have to really know your ingredients and watch your cooking time. The difference between a juicy chicken breast and a dry rubbery takes more work than dunking potatoes in a vat of hot oil.
Arena culture also matters for food. When at a hockey game, you don't want to eat a sandwich loaded with veggies. It would just fall apart and end up all over the floor. Arena food needs to be handheld, self contained, easy to transport and snack like.
A dream scenario would be hiring a chef to operate the canteen at Queens Place. Turning it into a cafÃ© would be even better. It could be turned into a profitable, or at least break even, operation under the right guidance.
Two things are really needed to make this a reality: the will to do it and the resources to back it up. We have to get away from the idea that going to a hockey game means having junk food. We also have to take a chance and put some money behind it.
A healthy eating policy is likely far down on the priorities for the new council. There are bigger issues to worry about, such as the economic health of our community.
But we brag about how our arena is a world-class facility. Why not back it up with some world-class food as well? If the municipality could implement a policy and make it a success it would be a great feather in our cap.
It feels like Queens Place is right on the cusp of getting healthy eating right. We've put so much money into a fully equipped fitness centre (healthy living) and a multi-purpose arena (healthy community.) Let's go just that little bit further and make the healthy eating part be amazing too.