Healthy food and beverage choices in vending machines has been quite the “buzz” in the media, especially in Washington D.C. New legislation in the District made important steps to creating a healthier city through implementing healthier nutrition policies. This is a huge win for the advocates who helped move it forward.
There has been a growing discussion about utilizing convenient vending machines to promote healthier eating in the United States. From childhood obesity to organic food trends, the issue continues to grow. That is why the D.C. budget included new nutrition requirements for food and beverages sold in public places. The goal is to improve residents’ health when they eat food the District provides including in their vending machines.
On June 24th, the DC Council approved three pieces of legislation as part of the 2015 Budget package including legislation that will help prevent the use of tobacco, increase children’s physical activity and promote healthier nutrition. The Workplace Wellness Act establishes a requirement that 50% of beverage and food sold in vending machines in government buildings or grounds meet the federal nutrition standards.
The District of Columbia has set a nutrition standard for the vending machines that are located in public areas. The requirement is that at least 50% of the beverages and food sold in the vending machines meet specific healthy nutrition standard. This is in addition to the Washington, D.C. government requirement, enacted in 2012, that 100% of beverages and food available in all public parks must be healthy choices.
This new nutrition standard is part of D.C.’s budget passed by the D.C. Council. The Council overrode Mayor Vincent Gray’s veto of the budget. In addition to vending machines, the standard is required for all drinks and food sold in retail establishments and at events and meetings in district-owned and operated grounds and buildings.
The new D.C. nutrition standards are being established to encourage the availability of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, water, low-calorie beverages and other healthier choices. They will be modeled on the current Federal Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations.
The mayor’s office is tasked with developing a workplace wellness policy. They must consider negative and positive nutrient contributions, ingredients, portion size, calories, trans fat, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium. The nutrition standards will call for whole fruit, vegetable, whole grains, low fat milk and low fat yogurt.
The new standards apply to beverages and food served or purchased by the District agencies including in vending machines, at meetings, events and from vendors on-site. The locations that will be subject to the new nutrition requirements will have one year to implement the changes once the budget takes effect. Food served at the Department of Behavior Health and Department of Corrections is not subject to the new health standards.