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Sacramento Takes Step Backwards on Healthy Food Vending

Sacramento Takes Step Backwards on Healthy Food Vending

At CPEHN, we employ a “health in all policies” strategy for creating healthier environments that can advance health equity for California’s communities of color. One of the key goals of this strategy is to increase access to healthy foods, particularly in communities with fewer grocery stores and more fast food restaurants.

Recently, the City of Sacramento made an unfortunate decision to reduce the nutritional standards in the vending machines in its facilities. The city’s new contract requires that 25% of items in the new vending machines meet minimum nutrition standards, down from 50%.

While it may seem minor, offering healthy options in vending machines is a significant part of a strategy to improve access to healthy food. State and local governments have considerable purchasing power, particularly in regards to vending machines. In its 2010 report, the Strategic Growth Council’s Health in all Policies Task Force recommended that government spending should be leveraged to support healthy eating and sustainable local food systems. In particular, the Task Force offered the following suggestions for healthy food procurement policies to ensure that foods purchased on public property meets minimum nutrition standards:

  1. Establish nutrition standards for foods and beverages available in government-run recreation centers and parks.
  2. Implement and strengthen existing legislation to promote healthier options in vending machines.
  3. Enhance vendor and concession policies to support the availability of healthy foods, for example through bid incentives for healthy options and locally-grown produce.  Policy revisions should consider potential cost implications.
  4. Identify existing best practices and provide training and technical assistance on implementation of healthy procurement policies.

In response to these recommendations, CPEHN sponsored SB 912, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell, which made a 50% healthy vending policy permanent in state buildings. This bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown last fall.

Sacramento had been one of the leaders in adopting healthy vending strategies, but by rolling back nutritional standards, the city is taking a step in the wrong direction on public health. Creating healthy food environments is essential for reducing rates of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions. As advocates, we will continue to support policies that ensure that our communities have access to healthier food options in places where they live and work.

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