Newswise — Over the course of the last two years, the City of Baltimore health experts have worked to ensure at least half of the foods and beverages sold in vending machines on city owned facilities are healthy.

The shift to healthy vending began in September 2013 when Mayor Stephanie Rawlings announced a Healthy Vending Pilot Project with a commitment to full implementation by 2015. Considering the city has hundreds of vending machines in public facilities all over the city—-including libraries, community centers, parks, pools, museums, and skate and ice rinks—-this was no small feat. On October 23, 2015, the city officially launched their Healthy Vending in all vending machines across the city. More than 18,000 city employees will benefit from this change as well as the 622,000 residents of the City of Baltimore.

What does this ‘healthy vending’ look like?The key criteria written into the Food and Beverage Vending Services RFP includes the following standards. One thing to note here is that nuts are generally given an exception due to high nutrition content, but also higher fat content. This vending contract also requires healthy items to be priced comparatively or less expensive than less healthy items, making sure customers are not having to weigh the cost of items when making healthy choices.

  • All foods will have no trans fats and must contain less than 241 mg sodium per serving AND at least one item must be less than 140 mg per serving.
  • And 50% of foods will be:
  • Low fat: not more than 35% of total calories from fat and not more than 10% of calories form saturated fat.
  • Low sugar: not more than 35% total weight from sugars and caloric sweeteners.
  • Low calorie: no more than 200 calories per label serving.
  • All beverages must have fewer than 250 calories total and vegetable juice must contain less than 230 mg of sodium per serving.
  • And 50% of beverages must contain less than 40 calories per serving, except for 100% juice and unsweetened milk. Beverages that meet the nutrition standards include:
  • No calorie options: water, coffee, tea, diet sodas
  • Milk: Non-fat or 1% milk and flavored milk with less than 15 g of added sugar per 240 ml serving
  • Juice: 100% fruit or vegetable juice and fruit-based drinks with at least 50% juice and no added caloric sweeteners
  • Sports Drinks: sports drinks with no more than 100 calories
  • Water is also required to be stocked and placed “in the position with the highest selling potential” and the opposite is true for high calorie beverages, ensuring the healthy items are top of mind for customers at point of purchase.

The research is clear that eating nutritious foods and eating only enough to meet energy needs can reduce cardiovascular disease risk and promote wellness. In fact, consuming the right amounts of the right foods may be the single most important thing we can do for cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association encourages employers and cities to create a healthy work environment and promote a healthy lifestyle for their employees and the public that come through city-owned facilities. Through healthy vending contracts, cities across the country are making a difference and helping families choose healthy snacks and drinks.

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