Last updated: 02 Feb, 2022

Read this toolkit about how local governments can support community health and wellbeing by creating healthy food and drink environments in local sport and recreation facilities.

Download: Water in Sport evaluation (PDF, 3 MB)



Key messages

  • Research shows that the types of food and drink available in the environments in which we live, work, learn and play can influence what we consume.

  • By providing healthy food retail environments in council-owned facilities, local governments can support community health and wellbeing.

  • The Water in Sport project supported 8 local governments from 2018-2020 to improve access to water and healthy drink options in their local sport and recreation facilities.

  • Key learnings and outcomes from the Water in Sport project were used to develop a toolkit to support people in creating healthy food and drink environments,and a series of council case studies.


About the Water in Sport project

Between 2018-2020, VicHealth supported 8 local governments to improve access to water and healthy drink options in their local sport and recreation facilities. 

This project was built on the learning's and outcomes from previous VicHealth investments to help promote water as the drink of choice in sporting environments. 

Making water the drink of choice instead of sugary drinks, is a significant first step to implementing the Victorian Government’s Healthy Choices guidelines. 

Key aims of the project for each council included:

  1. Increasing the promotion and supply of water and reducing the availability of sugary drinks in multiple community sports and recreation facilities.

  2. Developing or strengthening council policies and practices, to create longer-term changes to increase the promotion, access and supply of water across council-owned sport and recreation facilities.

To support project implementation, the Healthy Eating Advisory Service (HEAS) provided program delivery support to each council and Deakin University oversaw the evaluation. 

Project officers helped to introduce a ‘nudge’ to encourage customers to buy healthier drinks.

‘Nudges’ involved either limiting sugary drink availability to less than 20% of fridge display, or completely removing sugary drinks out of sight. 

Drinks available at each outlet were classified according to the Victorian Government’s Healthy Choices guidelines as:

  • ‘GREEN’ (‘best choice’); 

  • ‘AMBER’ (‘choose carefully’) or 

  • ‘RED’ (‘limit’).

What were the results? 

  • 39 facilities made changes to create healthy drinks environments.

  • Overall, availability of ‘GREEN’ drinks increased from 43% to 63% of all drinks and ‘RED’ drinks decreased from 39% to 11%. 

  • Every council has taken steps to implement healthy food retail facility policies to sustain the changes. As of February 2020, 4 councils had implemented healthy food retail policies.


What’s in the toolkit?

This toolkit focuses on the changes made to drinks during the Water in Sport project, however many of these recommendations can also be applied to making healthy changes to food. 

The toolkit provides:

  • advice on deciding which community food retail outlets to work with

  • how to engage with community food retail outlets and suggesting what healthy changes to make

  • step-by-step advice on how to put together, monitor and assess changes in community food retail settings to encourage healthier eating and drinking

  • recommendations for policy development to support healthy food retail environments

  • a range of data collection tools, and marketing and training resources created by the Water in Sport project officers and HEAS.


Who is this toolkit for?

This toolkit is designed for anyone interested in supporting the health of their community.

However, it will be very useful for health promotion officers (or similar) employed by a local government seeking to create a healthy food and drinks environment in their community food retail outlets, such as:

  • sport and recreation facilities

  • arts centres

  • community halls

  • libraries

  • club facilities.


More information

Find out more about VicHealth’s work with settings to increase access to water by visiting: