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Our New Healthful Snacks Vending Policy

December 16, 2011

William Walker, MD
Contra Costa Health Services

More Healthy Vending Policy information.

You might have noticed something different during your last snack break. Our vending machines now offer items with your health in mind.

Hello, I'm Dr. William Walker, County Health Officer and Director of Contra Costa Health Services. Our new policy of 100% healthful snacks affirms our healthy message by requiring that all items in vending machines on Health Services properties meet specific nutrition standards.

As a public health agency, we can do no less than serve as a model for the children and families who use our services across the county.

When I was approached with this suggestion almost a year ago, I supported it wholeheartedly&emdash;and I still do. The sale of sugar-sweetened beverages and snacks was undermining the efforts of our providers. In some cases, providers were in one room actively counseling patients against drinking sodas and eating junk food, while these products were being sold at a profit by our Health Center on the other side of the wall. We saw this in our health centers and WIC Program, where 40 percent of low-income children are overweight or obese.

Obesity is probably the most critical health issue facing Americans and leads to higher rates of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. If obesity rates continue to rise, a child born into today's world could have a lower life expectancy than his parents did when they were born.

Replacing vending machines alone will not prevent obesity nor improve health outcomes, but this is a good first step.

Our new vending policy means that healthy snacks are more readily available. It means we're serious about our healthful eating message and we're setting a good example by creating an environment that supports health.

We are not—and don't want to be—in the business of telling you what to eat. You still have the option to bring whatever food or drink you wish to work. You also have the option of letting us know which healthful snacks you prefer. We'll take those suggestions seriously and work with our vendors to offer the best selection of healthful options as possible.

The policy also gives us the ability to direct vending machine profits to our Public Health Division, where it will be used to strengthen our obesity prevention efforts.

This is an exciting step and we are one of only a few leaders to make this transition. Your feedback is invaluable during these early stages. We have heard from some of you and have made changes to the food selection based on your response. If you did not fill out a feedback form during the taste testing events, please send your comments to 925-313-6808.

Thanks for listening.

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