WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published its "Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations." The 15-page document sets forth requirements for all foodservice concession operations and vending machines managed by HHS and the U.S. General Services Administration. | SEE GUIDELINES
In May, 2009, President Obama assigned the Office of Personnel Management the task of developing "wellness best practices" and an appropriate plan to implement them on behalf of the federal workforce. The White House Office of Management & Budget also began working with federal agencies to provide "healthier" food choices to federal employees. That effort was led by GSA, which issued guidance early in 2010 for federal contractors seeking to comply with its "Wellness and Sustainability Requirements for Contracts." The new HHS guidelines are based on the same principles.
The GSA and HHS requirements that pertain to food follow "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010," prepared by HHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thus, they encourage the availability of seasonal vegetables and fruits; whole-grain options, including pasta; vegetarian and lean meat entrees; lowfat milk, yogurt and cottage cheese; high-fiber, low-sugar cereals; 100% fruit juice; freely available drinking water; foods containing smaller quantities of sodium and foods free from synthetic sources of trans fat.
The guidelines also seek to encourage more sustainable foodservice practices, such as offering incentives for using reusable beverage containers; using "green" cleaning and pest-control practices, and providing compostable and bio-based trays, flatware, plates and bowls. They call for offering food that is organically, locally or sustainably grown and labeled accordingly, and seafood identified as "Best Choices" or "Good Alternatives" on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch List or certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (or equivalent program).
"The guidelines are designed to make healthy choices more accessible, more appealing, and more affordable. They are not designed to restrict choices," HHS emphasized.
The "Health and Sustainability Guidelines" are applicable to all foodservice concession operations and vending machines managed by HHS and GSA. GSA will work with concessions operators to progressively implement the guidelines in federal facilities as contracts expire, and as opportunities to enhance offerings emerge.
APHA Hails HHS Guidelines
The American Public Health Association has written to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, commending the department for issuing its "Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations." APHA noted that it is a steadfast supporter of good nutrition as a cornerstone to promoting the public's health.
In the letter, APHA executive director Dr. Georges C. Benjamin hailed the Guidelines as "an excellent example of implementation strategies for the "2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans."
"Many of our members are experts in nutrition and chronic disease prevention, and are advocates for policies which will reduce obesity and improve health," Dr. Benjamin reported. "APHA stands ready to work with you on this initiative and other efforts to improve healthy eating options for all Americans.
"We believe that the guidelines are an important part of obesity prevention, making it possible for working Americans to follow recommendations to lower energy intake and increase energy expenditure at vending machines and in cafeterias," the APHA executive director continued. "The Guidelines will also make it easier to eat a diet that protects against heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer."
Founded in 1872, the APHA describes itself as the oldest and most diverse organization of public health professionals in the world. It is online at apha.org.