Green Light, Eat Right, Melbourne: Urban Food Policy Snapshot

by Alexina Cather, MPH

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Food Policy Snapshot: Green Light, Eat Right (GLER)

Overview: The City Of Melbourne developed a stoplight system to classify foods based on nutritional content, with the goal of improving the range and access to nutritious food. Food outlets like recreation and leisure centres, premier events, and vending machines classify and label foods based on their nutritional value. Green foods are the best choices, amber foods are adequate, and red foods should be avoided. In March of 2012, the city expanded GLER to the Moomba Festival – a family festival held annually to celebrate the city.

Location: Melbourne, Australia

  • Population: 4 million (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011)
  • The second most populated city in Australia.

Progress to date:

  • Four years on healthy eating has been fully integrated into many of Melbourne’s Premier events such as Moomba, Spring Fashion Week, and Melbourne Music Week, with more expansion into 2017. This includes a healthy eating food offer to the event goers but also for staff and volunteer catering.
  • Green Light, Eat Right is an ongoing program

Food policy category: Food Insecurity; Social and Economic Equity; Healthy Food Choices for All

Program Initiated: May 2009 (pilot phase at QV Urban Market food court, in Melbourne CBD)

  • Program has since expanded to all City of Melbourne recreation and leisure centres
  • March 2012 – first year implemented at Moomba Festival with 5 GLER outlets
  • March 2016 – GLER program fully integrated at Moomba Festival
  • 3 GLER vending machines have been added to city municipality

Program goals:

  • To improve consumer knowledge of and access to healthy and nutritious food
  • To enable consumers to make more informed food choices

How it works:

As part of the “Food City – Healthy Choices For All’’ policy, a strategic document that redesigned food access in Melbourne, the city developed a food classification program based on a traffic light system of colour coding:

  • Green – best choice
  • Amber – choose carefully
  • Red – limit consumption to less than seven times a week
  • Green, amber, or red colored dots are placed next to food options at local vendors to help individuals make more informed decisions about nutritionally optimal foods
  • GLER now refers to the recently developed Victorian State Government, Healthy Choices: Food and Drink Classification Guide, which provides guidelines around assessing and coding food and drink as Green, Amber and Red.
  • The Green Light, Eat Right program currently operates at :
    • Recreation and Leisure Centres – Melbourne City Baths, North Melbourne Recreation Centre and Pool, Kensington Recreation Centre, Carlton Baths and Riverslide Skate Park. Kiosks/ Cafes are GLER branded with promotional signage, menu boards, fridge stickers and displays. A central ‘pantry list’ has been developed with a healthy food and drink supplier, whereby the recreation sites will select for order specific Green and Amber coded food and drink only, to sell at their respective kiosks/cafes.
  • GLER Vending – three GLER branded machines are currently located at the Royal Dental Hospital, North Melbourne Recreation Centre and Royal Park Golf Course, stocking food and drink coded as Green and Amber only foods.
  • At the 2016 Moomba Festival: An apple icon pointed festival go-ers to five healthy eating caterers who served food and drink options using the traffic light system. They offered green and amber options only; for example, instead of sugary soft drinks, caterers offered smoothies, hydrating coconuts, fresh juices and water. No food or drink options that would fall under the “red” categorization were available.

Why it is important:

  • This policy will advance the health literacy of citizens of Melbourne. The implementation of this program has allowed many citizens to obtain and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions.
  • This program is also improving access to healthy and nutritious foods. By expanding the program to the Moomba festival, Australia’s largest community festival, hundreds of thousands of people will be exposed to the food ranking system and will have access to nutritious food options.

Evaluation:

  • A study surveying Moomba 2015 found that 89 percent of attendees felt that the Healthy Eating Zone (area where food tents offering green and amber foods located) was important for Moomba, at least to some extent.
  • 64 percent of survey respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the availability of healthy food options at Moomba
  • 75 percent of survey respondents found the traffic light coding system easy to understand
  • 45 percent of survey respondents stated that the traffic light coding on food and drink choices was influential when deciding what to get
    • 25 percent claimed it was not influential and 22 percent of respondents said they were neutral on this topic. Feedback from these groups suggests that most did not notice or pay attention to the traffic light coding since they were already in the healthy eating zone.

Learn more:

 

 

Point of Contact:

Similar practices:

  • Ecuador: Traffic light labeling
    • Food companies must label the amount of salt, fat and sugar on their processed foods’ packaging with an easy to read visual (red, yellow, green circle)
    • Products are labeled red when high (in sugar, salt, fat), yellow for medium values and green for low values
  • Britain’s Food Standards Agency Traffic Light System
    • Color-coded nutritional information tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.

References:

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