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Issue Date: Vol. 50, No. 3, March 2010, Posted On: 2/19/2010

Federal Vending Machines Face New Wellness Standards

Emily Jed
vending, vending machine, vending operator, vending industry, school vending, President Obama, Michelle Obama, federal dining facilities, General Services Administration,Randolph-Sheppard Act

WASHINGTON -- President Obama is pushing his wellness initiative on federal employees. The U.S. General Services Administration said it will deliver healthier food choices in federal vending machines, dining facilities and "greener" cafeterias.

The White House Offices of Management and Budget and Health Reform, working together with GSA, have created a new national template detailing the requirements for federal dining facilities across the country.

The State Department's Washington, DC, headquarters building, under a new foodservice contract with I.L. Creations of Maryland Inc. (Rockville), will have one of the first dining facilities to use the template. By integrating a farmer's market, it will feature locally grown produce and market baskets, menu options that are prepared using "healthy" cooking techniques, and a nutrition education program to help federal employees make better food choices. The site serves approximately 6,500 employees and more than 1,000 visitors each day.

Working with the Department of Agriculture, GSA established the nutritional requirements for the template. They include the use of "healthy" cooking techniques in food preparation to minimize trans fatty acids and added salt; menu variety to address special dietary needs; programs to educate patrons on product lines available, proper portion sizes, use of whole grains and other "healthy" food items; and use of technology and other services to promote wellness. Additionally, the template seeks to promote sustainability by encouraging use of locally and organically produced foods, purchasing products made from renewable materials, encouraging the use of "green" cleaning products, and implementing responsible recycling and composting programs.

GSA manages more than 350 federal cafeterias under commercial contract or operated in conjunction with the Department of Education's Randolph-Sheppard Act. The agency plans to phase in the new criteria for healthier, more sustainable options as current foodservice contracts expire and to aggressively explore opportunities to enhance services provided under current contracts where there is consumer demand and support from the vendor.

As part of its wellness initiative, GSA said it is also committed to providing "healthier" food and snacks in vending machines and sundry shops in federal buildings. During a recent pilot program at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, GSA officials said, two-thirds of total sales from vending machines offering "healthier" snacks and beverages were generated by those options. This demonstrates that the federal workforce is seeking healthier food choices inside the workplace and that "health and good business are not in conflict but go together," they observed.

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