SEATTLE - Washington State's King County has launched the pilot of its planned "healthy snack" program, involving seven vending machines in the King County Administration Building and the King County Courthouse stocked with new, more nutritious selections. The program is a part of King County Executive Ron Sims's Health Reform Initiative, which is aimed at improving the health of King County employees and managing the rising cost of healthcare.
"I know getting healthy and staying healthy is a big priority for all of us," said Sims. "This year we are offering lots of ways to help. Putting healthier choices in the vending machines is just one of them."
Employees and visitors to these heavily trafficked buildings will find snacks that have less salt, less sugar and less fat than conventional snack foods. In addition, four new "healthy" beverage machines offer bottled water, iced tea, juices and other alternatives to soda and sugary drinks.
The healthier snack options were chosen based on criteria created by the Winner's Circle Healthy Dining Program, a nationally recognized non-profit organization that identifies food choices that promote health and reduce the risk of disease. King County is one the first local governments in Washington State to pilot the Winner's Circle program.
Winner's Circle's criteria for one serving of a "healthy" snack are: 30% or less of the calories from fat, 35% or less sugar by weight, and no more than 480 mg. of sodium. Examples of healthy snacks that have been added to the vending machines include organic apple chips, which reportedly sold out rapidly; baked potato chips; fruit cups' General Mills "Chex Mix" and Campbell Soup Co.'s "Pepperidge Farm Goldfish" crackers, graham crackers, granola bars and light microwave popcorn.
"We believe that when provided with the information and the opportunity to make informed choices, employees and other vending machine customers will choose healthier alternatives," Sims stated in support of the program, which is supplemented with information in the Health Matters employee newsletter and signs on the machines. The county is collaborating with the vending operator to track sales of the snack products, to evaluate the project.
The vending machine pilot program received vital support from Steve Gardner, key account manager for Local Vending Services, the company that serves the location. "We are very happy to participate in this pilot because King County and the public schools are on the cutting edge of the movement to provide healthier foods in vending machines," he said. "Everyone in the industry knows this is where we are headed. We expect to have more and more healthy options available soon."
Support for the pilot is also provided by the Washington State Department of Services to the Blind, which by statute receives net proceeds from vending machines in public buildings. If the healthier choices prove popular, the pilot may be extended to other vending machines across the county.
For more information about Executive Sims's Healthy Reform Initiative, visit metrokc.gov/employees. Details on the Winner's Circle program are available at winnerscirclehealthydining.com.