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Grand Forks Park Board mulls nutrition while facility cafe struggles for business

Healthy eating was handed a setback recently when the owners of Sprouts Caf? bowed out as the food concessionaire at Choice Health & Fitness. A different healthy foods initiative, spearheaded by Grand Forks Park Board Commissioner Molly Soeby...

Sprouts Cafe
Sprouts Cafe at Choice Health & Fitness in Grand Forks, N.D. will be operated by the Park District after the private concessionaire running the cafe pulled out because of lack of business. Herald photo by John Stennes.

Healthy eating was handed a setback recently when the owners of Sprouts Café bowed out as the food concessionaire at Choice Health & Fitness.

A different healthy foods initiative, spearheaded by Grand Forks Park Board Commissioner Molly Soeby, remains in limbo. Soeby wants the Park District's concession stands to conform to the Institute of Medicine's recommended snack nutrition standards.

Fellow Commissioners Jay Panzer and Tim Skarperud weren't ready yet to agree at Tuesday's board meeting, citing concerns that recovery offerings -- such as chocolate milk -- recommended for youth hockey players may not be available.

So, the issue was referred to a committee for further study.

Earlier at Tuesday's meeting, the commissioners allowed Sprouts to get out early from its concessionaire contract because of slow sales.

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"At Choice, healthy choices didn't sell well enough for them to carry on," said Bill Palmiscno, Park District director. "We have to look at the cost of healthy choices, too, and make sure we give people enough choices."

Kavita Rami, Sprouts co-owner with Chris Rood, said that "there were people who really enjoyed our food, but not enough of them for us to survive in this business, which is really sad.

"Business slowed down quite a bit in the summer. If we had had a good summer, we would have given it another year of trying. We made our food from scratch every day and some people had trouble paying the (higher) prices because of it."

The Park District will operate Sprouts through the end of the year. At that time, officials will decide whether to continue running the café or find another private concessionaire.

Lower fat is goal

Soeby's proposal calls for 70 percent of food served at park district facilities to conform to recommended snack nutrition standards. The food standards include having no more than 35 percent of total calories coming from fat, less than 10 percent of total calories coming from saturated fat and zero percent from transfat.

The Park District already has made changes in most concession stands. It has decreased candy bar options to five, for instance. It also has added granola, yogurt, applesauce, mandarin orange cups, vitamin water, teas, string cheese and whole wheat buns. The taco-in-a-bag uses seasoned ground turkey with beans, instead of ground beef.

"We've made some changes in most of the concession stands and have not seen a loss of revenue," Soeby said. "I'd like to see it enacted as a policy."

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Soeby had support from about a half-dozen local health professionals at the board meeting.

"Seventy percent is a great target," said Leah Whigham, a nutritional scientist with the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Center.

"In addition, fruit and vegetables should be added instead of sugar rushes and crashes with candy and pop."

Whigham added that chocolate milk does help with recovery.

Several of the health professionals said they'd volunteer to be on a committee to set concession stand menus. Either Panzer or Skarperud also will be on the committee.

Call Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send email to rbakken@gfherald.com .

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