The Union Splash-N-Swimplex is getting some help from the state to provide healthier concessions.

The $2,816 grant from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is among stipends being awarded across the state to support healthier concessions and vending, according to a news release from the University of Missouri Extension in Franklin County.

The Union Parks and Recreation Department started offering pre-cut fruit packages from Andy’s Produce last year at the pool, as well as at the baseball and softball concession stand at Veterans Memorial Park, Parks Director Chad Pohlmann said.

“We started it last summer with the tournaments, and it went pretty well,” he said. “So we’re doing it again this summer. … It’s just trying to give a healthier option to the patrons that are visiting the facilities.”

Lydia Nipper, nutrition and health specialist with MU Extension, reached out to the parks department about the extension’s Eat Smart in the Parks Program, which will allow the department to take the city’s healthy foods program further.

Pohlmann said Nipper, along with pool manager Kate Schroeder, deserves credit for getting the grant in Union. Nipper helped the department draft the grant application and got them in contact with DHSS.

The program includes training and model standards for parks, schools and other concession entities, according to the extension.

A problem with healthier food is it often has a shorter shelf life than candy or processed snacks, Pohlmann said. That means healthy food requires refrigeration, something limited at the small pool concession stand.

They plan to use some of the money to buy a small refrigerator that is more conducive to small spaces. Currently the only refrigerator is one with a clear glass door that is used to sell specific products.

With the pool closing in late August and a lag time in ordering nearly all large devices, it is likely the pool will not offer the new healthy items until the 2022 season, Pohlmann said.

“It has been difficult in nearly all areas, from equipment to materials, to do the work,” he said.

Among the healthier options the parks department is considering for next year are fruit ice cream bars, Pohlmann said.

The department also is seeking recommendations from customers.

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