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Metropolitan King County Council

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Metropolitan King County Council
516 Third Ave., Rm. 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-296-1000
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April 21, 2011

King County Board of Health adopts new guidelines for healthier foods in vending machines

Healthy Vending Guidelines make healthier choices possible for people on the go

The King County Board of Health today unanimously approved guidelines encouraging organizations in King County to provide healthier choices in vending machines. Vending machines offer quick food for people on the go or without accessible options nearby, but many currently offer very limited and unhealthy choices.

The voluntary King County Healthy Vending Guidelines support businesses, community-based organizations and local governments that want to offer more options and healthier food and beverages. Guidelines and recommendations are a new policy tool for the Board of Health to provide guidance and best practices to improve the health of the community.

“People want healthy options, but most vending machines don't have them,” said Board of Health Member Julia Patterson, Chair of the Healthy Eating, Active Living Subcommittee. “Making healthy options available in our worksites, youth programs, and other community settings will make it easier for people to reach for something other than the potato chips and sugary sodas.”

Obesity and poor nutrition are serious problems in King County. Over half of adults and almost a third of youth are overweight or obese. Additionally, less than one third of adults and youth report consuming enough fruits and vegetables daily, and a third of youth report consuming one or more sodas daily.

Lack of access to nutritious food when eating meals or snacks away from home makes it difficult for King County residents to make healthy choices.

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

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

Government and other organizations are already making the move toward healthier vending options. King County, through its Healthy Incentives program, offers 20 percent of healthier options in many of its vending machines. The Seattle Housing Authority is also working to implement healthy vending.

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

The Healthy Vending Guidelines present three categories of food and beverages: healthiest, healthier, and food and beverages that should be limited. Examples of food and beverages for all three categories are included, along with appropriate levels of calories, fat, sugar and sodium. The Healthy Vending Guidelines also outline best practices for implementing healthy vending and three approaches for creating a healthy vending policy.

The guidelines are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 and use food types (fruits, whole grains, etc.) rather than simply looking at calories, fat, sodium and sugar for identifying healthy options.