Spending time outdoors surrounded by nature has many health benefits for both body and mind, according to recent research from the Centers for Disease Control and other organizations. And now, Cabarrus County-operated parks are changing two policies in an effort to enhance the many health benefits of visiting a park.
Beginning in July, all tobacco products will be banned from Cabarrus County parks. In addition, park visitors will begin to find healthy food selections at vending machines and concessions stands located in Cabarrus County parks.
A new ordinance taking effect July 1 will ban all tobacco products from county parks in an effort to protect public health and the environment. This tobacco ban will free parks of harmful second-hand smoke as well as exposure to discarded cigarettes and other tobacco products which children and pets may find on the ground. Cigarette butts are the most littered item nationwide, according to Keep America Beautiful. Of the more than 250 cigarette butts found during a recent litter cleanup at Frank Liske Park, the majority were found near children’s playgrounds – indicating an increased risk of second-hand smoke exposure among children.
Banned tobacco products include any product containing, made, or derived from tobacco that is intended for human consumption, whether chewed, smoked, absorbed, dissolved, inhaled, snorted, sniffed, or ingested by any other means, or any component part or accessory of a tobacco product, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, smoking tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, and other kinds and forms of tobacco.
The second new policy aimed at creating healthier parks is the addition of healthy food selections at county parks’ vending machines and concession stands. The new policy will begin implementation in July by offering healthy snack and drink options in addition to high-sugar, high-fat food selections typically offered.
The policy specifies that 50 percent of all snack and beverage options be considered healthy. Healthy snack options are defined as (per individual package) not more than 200 calories, not more than 30 percent calories from fat with the exception of nuts and seeds, no trans fat, not more than 35 percent total weight from sugar and caloric sweeteners, and not more than 360 mg sodium per serving. Healthy beverage options will include water, non-fat or 1-percent-fat milk, diet soft drinks, and 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices with no added sugars, artificial flavors or colors.
Cabarrus County Parks Department received a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation to purchase two refrigerated display coolers for the concession stands at Frank Liske Park and Camp T.N. Spencer Park in order to provide a larger variety of healthy food options. The vending machines at these parks, as well as North Cabarrus Park, also will include at least 50 percent healthy food selections.