Board of Health calls for healthier vending machine fare

April 25, 2011

By Staff

NEW — 6 a.m. April 25, 2011

Healthier options could start appearing in vending machines throughout King County, due to guidelines the county Board of Health adopted last week.

The voluntary guidelines divvy foods and beverages into categories for healthiest, healthier items that should be limited. The goal is to support businesses, community organizations and local governments interested in offering more options and healthier snacks.

“These voluntary guidelines will help organizations implement a more well-rounded selection of foods,” Board of Health Vice Chairwoman Kathy Lambert, the Issaquah representative on the County Council, said in a release. “This list also can provide guidance in selecting food choices for vending companies as well as for their customers.”

Obesity and poor nutrition pose serious problems in King County. More than half of adults and almost one-third of youth qualify as overweight or obese.

In addition, less than one-third of adults and youth report consuming enough fruits and vegetables daily, and one-third of youth report consuming one or more sodas per day.

The guidelines aim to compensate for a lack of access to nutritious food on the go.

“Many of us eat up to half of our meals outside the home,” Board of Health Chairman Joe McDermott, a county councilman, said in a release. “The Healthy Vending Guidelines will make it easier for King County residents to make healthy choices while eating on-the-go.”

The guidelines include examples of food and beverages for all of the categories, as well as appropriate levels of calories, fat, sugar and sodium. The board used the the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 and use food types — fruits, whole grains, etc. — rather than simply using calories, fat, sodium and sugar for identifying healthy options.

King County already offers 20 percent of healthier options in many vending machines at county facilities.

“The healthy choice is the easy choice when good, nutritious foods are available,” Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in a release. “The Healthy Vending Guidelines are designed to help organizations stock their vending machines with better food and drink.”

The board adopted the guidelines in a unanimous decision April 21. Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger serves on the board.

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