CHICAGO -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association has endorsed the Healthy Choices Act (HR 5209), a measure introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and cosponsored by Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-WI) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH).
Titled "Healthy Communities through Helping to Offer Incentives and Choices to Everyone in Society," the measure's sponsors state that it is "the first legislation of its kind that brings together the grocery industry, the healthcare industry and government to comprehensively fight the obesity epidemic." Read more.
Its provisions are designed to enhance access to the tools and education to make healthy choices, update nutrition guidelines for child and adult care food programs, increase access to nutritional information and healthy, affordable foods in rural and low-income urban areas, extend opportunities for physical activity on the part of adults and children, and provide more opportunities to participate.
"As the association for the food and beverage vending industry, NAMA has long recognized the importance of offering healthy options for our customers," said Ned Monroe, senior vice-president of government affairs for the association. "Our members know that solutions to obesity require a comprehensive approach. This legislation is a great step in providing choice for our customers to live a better life."
NAMA particularly appreciates the legislation's focus on finding solutions to "food deserts," areas (usually in large cities) where residents cannot obtain nutritious foods conveniently. The association noted that vending can deliver healthy food that complies with the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) requirements in underserved communities.
"We support the efforts to provide additional education on nutritional information which can help our customers make informed choices," Monroe added. "By also focusing on increased exercise, this legislation helps provide a common-sense solution to the obesity problem."
NAMA president and chief executive Richard M. Geerdes observed that "Congressman Kind and the bipartisan cosponsors are to be commended for this common-sense legislation.
"Our members can provide a wide variety of healthy options in vending machines," Geerdes emphasized. "We have such machines in the White House, for example. This bill recognizes that those same options should be made available to customers in underserved areas of our nation."
NAMA reiterated that it is committed to assisting in this effort, and through its Balanced for Life and Fit Pick programs, is working across the nation to combat obesity. The Fit Pick vending labeling system is currently being used in vending machines to highlight healthier options.