Sausage sizzles get a healthy makeover as part of Government's fight against obesity

Healthy Families Christchurch is working behind the scenes to make us healthier - starting with sausage sizzles.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Healthy Families Christchurch is working behind the scenes to make us healthier - starting with sausage sizzles.

The traditional sausage sizzle fundraiser is being given a healthy makeover as part of a scheme to improve Kiwis' health. 

The Government's flagship chronic disease prevention programme Healthy Families is trying to convince charities to sell healthier foods, rather than the traditional fried sausages on white bread with tomato sauce.

Healthy Families Christchurch convinced the organisers of a major fun run event to make their sausage sizzle healthier and include healthy food vendors.

Manager Jill Borland said she was trying to improve the city's health "by stealth".

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Family violence support service Aviva, which was the official sausage sizzle provider at the fun run, agreed to replace white bread for wholemeal, use low sugar tomato sauce, ditch the margarine and offer coleslaw with each sausage. 

Aviva marketing and funding manager Julie McCloy​ said no-one noticed the changes and many even welcomed the coleslaw. 

She said she would use the healthier version of the traditional fundraiser next time.

"People love sausage sizzles so if you can make it a little bit healthier, why not?"

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There are 10 Healthy Families initiatives around New Zealand, introduced under former Health Minister Tony Ryall. 

Healthy Families Invercargill came up with the initiative they called "choice as sizzle" as a way to "start the conversation" about healthy changes and demonstrate what Healthy Families was about, communications adviser Nathan Burdon said.

Leon Boxall, 7, tucks in to a sausage.
RICKY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Leon Boxall, 7, tucks in to a sausage.

"Sausage sizzles were all over the place and we said what's a visible way that we can get our message out there."

Healthy Families staff contacted community groups booked to hold sausage sizzles outside The Warehouse and asked them to consider the healthy tweaks.

After the three month trial 80 per cent of the groups said they would consider sticking with the healthy version in future.

"Obviously it's not a silver bullet for our global obesity problem but it has allowed us to start some conversations and get people thinking about other changes they can make." 

Borland said she hoped the healthy sausage sizzle idea would spread throughout Christchurch.

Healthy Families role was to change attitudes towards health by working with communities. 

"It's a social change movement, it's not a product that is being rolled out."

Sport Canterbury took over the management of Healthy Families Christchurch from Pacific Trust Canterbury (PTC) in August last year after PTC was put into liquidation.

Borland has the next 12 months to make a difference to the city's health as the four-year contract finishes in mid-2018.

Sport Canterbury chief executive Julyan Falloon declined to comment on the programme's failure under PTC.

PTC won the four-year $2.3 million tender for the programme in 2014, but the Ministry of Health cut ties with the trust after it failed to "satisfactorily progress the introduction of Healthy Families NZ in Spreydon-Heathcote".

Meetings discussing water-only policies in schools and establishing community vegetable gardens had helped inspire change and share knowledge, Falloon said.

The scheme would next focus on workplaces, and discussions were under way with the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce and some larger employers about how to make health a priority at work.

 - Sunday Star Times

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