April 18, 2017

Montgomery County Council Unanimously Approves Increased Healthy Vending Options

On April 18, the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved Bill 1-17 that will expand healthy drinks and snacks offered in county vending machines. At least 50 percent of items in machines will meet American Heart Association recommended nutrition standards for sugar, salt, fat and other measures, and every drink machine will offer bottled water. The legislation will be enacted for any vending machine service contract entered into on or after July 1, 2017.

For the next two years, 50 percent of snacks in machines on county property need to meet American Heart Association recommended nutrition standards for sugar, salt, fat and other measures. After that, the percentage of healthy food and drink offered will be required to rise to 65 percent.

WTOP radio reported on the story.

Sugar Free Kids Maryland advocated strongly for the bill. “We are excited that Montgomery County has taken the lead in Maryland by passing this policy that supports a culture of health,” said Executive Director Shawn McIntosh. “Sugar Free Kids is looking forward to building on this momentum as we improve healthy vending choices throughout the state. This legislation will help the county promote health, increase access to healthy choices and reduce the costly effects of medical conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Montgomery County will become a healthier place to live, work and play.”

The bill’s lead sponsor was Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At Large). Councilmembers Roger Berliner (D-District 1), Marc Elrich (D-At Large), Tom Hucker (D-District 5), Nancy Navarro (D-District 4), Craig Rice (D-District 2) and Hans Riemer (D-District 15) were co-sponsors.

“As chair of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, I am always on the lookout for ways to help our employees make healthier lifestyle choice,” said Councilmember Leventhal. “Bill 1-17 does not dictate what people can or cannot eat—it simply mandates that our vendors provide healthier options.”

Between Fiscal Year 2006 and Fiscal Year 2017, County Government expenditures to provide health insurance to current and retired employees increased by 72 percent, from $83.3 million to $143.1 million.

Almost one in four children in Montgomery County is not able to maintain a healthy weight. This rate outpaces the national average. More than half of all adults in the county are not keeping a healthy weight.

Several advocacy groups including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Action Network and Real Food for Kids Montgomery were involved in championing this legislation.

The legislation was covered nationally by the U.S. News & World Report. In addition to WTOP, the legislation was also covered locally by the Washington Post, Bethesda Beat, ABC 7 TV, NBC 4 TV, Rockville Patch, Takoma Park Patch and Montgomery County Media.