SEATTLE -- Washington state's King County Board of Health has unanimously approved guidelines that encourage organizations in Seattle and the surrounding region to provide healthier choices in vending machines.
"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," said Julia Patterson, who chairs of the board's Healthy Eating and Active Living subcommittee. She claims that most vending machines do not offer healthy products, making them an easy target in a county where almost a third of all kids are reported to be overweight or obese.
"Many of us eat up to half of our meals outside the home," added 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." He explained that guidelines will provide direction for vending companies in selecting food choices, and are intended to increase the availability of nutritious foods for away-from-home consumers.
The healthy vending guidelines define three categories of food and beverages: healthiest, healthier, and food and beverages that should be limited. Examples of foods and beverages for all three categories are included, along with appropriate levels of calories, fat, sugar and sodium. The 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 focusing on calories, fat, sodium and sugar for identifying healthy options.
Government and other organizations in the county are already making the move toward healthier vending options. Through its Healthy Incentives program, King County offers machines stocked with 20% healthier items in many government buildings. The Seattle Housing Authority is also working to implement healthy vending.