Prince George’s County Council unanimously approved legislation Tuesday to ensure at least 50 percent of food and beverage vending machines on county property provide healthier choices.
The legislation stipulates that food have no more than 200 calories per package and containers of fewer than 12 ounces of vegetable or fruit juice have no more than 200 milligrams of sodium. It also prohibits food with more than 35 percent of total calories from fat except items containing all nuts or seeds.
Council Vice Chairwoman Dannielle Glaros said the healthier drink and food items will be placed in the machines this year, including those in government buildings, libraries and parks. The legislation doesn’t include items managed by the county school system.
“I think this legislation became incredibly personal to so many people in the county,” said Glaros (D-District 3), who crafted the vending machine bill. “I was incredibly honored to move this legislation forward. It’s a great day for Prince George’s County and it matters for the lives of our residents.”
One of those residents, Rhienne Redmond, 18, recently had surgery in her abdominal area. After that, she decided to change her lifestyle.
“Although my diet hasn’t been horrible, it could’ve been better,” said Redmond, who graduated from Oxon Hill High School and leaves next month for Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina on a music scholarship. “When you are laid up in the bed, you start to think about how can I help myself to do better. I need to balance myself in everything I do.”
According to the legislation, the county has several reasons to encourage healthier options for government workers and residents:
• The county health department notes more than 60 percent of deaths are due to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and stroke;
• The county spends $95 million annually to fund its employee health insurance program; and
• The county ranked third in the state in 2015 with those diagnosed with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to a report Tuesday by the CDC (http://bit.ly/2tnbN35), an estimated 30 million people in the United States, or 9.4 percent, had diabetes two years ago. It also became the seventh-leading cause of death in the country.
To ensure those figures decrease in the future, any new vendors and contract renewals on or after July 1, 2019, must ensure at least 65 percent of all food and drinks in machines meet the healthy vending requirements.
“In majority African-American communities, we have higher incidents … of health issues, in large part due to our eating habits and drinking habits,” said Councilman Mel Franklin (D-District 9). “I think the critical thing here is choice. We want to make sure we are not necessarily telling people what they have to eat, but providing them with affordable options so they can eat healthier.”