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Energize Guelph health initiative seen as something worth keeping where possible

Park activation program one of the things being made permanent part of parks and recreation programming
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The city will be keeping some elements of a provincial program aimed at making it easier for local children active and eat healthier.

Energize Guelph was one of 45 communities in the province funded through the province’s Healthy Kids Community Challenge.

The city was given $962,500 over three and a half years for funding for that program, which expired in September of 2018.

Energize Guelph had 18 different elements introduced throughout the city, plus workshops and a park activation program that saw city staff engaging neighbourhood children and families with portable equipment and activities in neighbourhood parks.

Over 15,000 people took part in the programs.

Two vending machines that sold reusable water bottles in recreation centres, quidditch tournaments and paddleboard lessons were among some of the other elements introduced through the program.

The park activation program and reusable water bottle vending machines will continue, as will a “give it a try” program for non-traditional parks and rec programming.

Mayor Cam Guthrie noted that he would be looking to add two more water bottle vending machines in the upcoming budget.

“One of the things Energize Guelph did was it allowed us to take a gamble on things we probably never would have tried otherwise,” said Eric Pool, supervisor of programs and community development in the city’s recreation services, told a city council committee of the whole meeting Monday.

Councillor James Gordon told Pool that if there were valuable elements of the program being ended because of fiscal restrictions, it should be brought to council during its budget deliberations.

Parks and recreation general manager Heather Flaherty said that the city is going to “do our best” to incorporate things from Energize Guelph into permanent city programming.

“We are including portions of this in our everyday recreation offerings,” Flaherty said.

Brandon Johnson, executive director of the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, praised the program for bringing things to the neighbourhoods.

“Really been able to bring programs to the community, meet them where they live, and the programs have been relatively low cost,” Johnson said.

He jokingly said that the informality of the park activation events have “tricked” many into trying recreational activities.

Johnson said that there were 4,000 unique participants in neighbourhood group events alone.

Johnson said there were fiscal and psychological barriers to lower income families participating in many recreational activities and Energize Guelph helped overcome some of those.

Glenna Banda, executive director of the Children’s Foundation of Guelph Wellington, told council that Energize Guelph was “a very successful program and something quite unique.”

“I do see great benefit with the continuation of Energize Guelph as a brand in this city,” Banda said.



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