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Arlington Deploys Healthier Vending Machines

By ARLnow.com

Thursday - 3/14/2013, 1:00pm  ET

New Arlington County is working with a vendor to install vending machines with healthier options in county offices.

The new vending machines are part of the county’s FitArlington initiative. At first, about half of the contents of the vending machines will contain healthier snack options that are lower in calories, fat and sugar.

One such snack machine includes options like baked potato chips, Clif bars, Nutrigrain bars, Sun Chips, 100 calorie sweet packs and other options. Drink machines will offer low-fat milk, low-calorie teas and bottled water — although the county is discouraging people from buying the latter.

“Our FitArlington Healthy Vending machines will have water but remember that it’s better for the environment to bring your own bottle and fill it up at a nearby drinking fountain,” the county said in a press release (after the jump).

The vending machines will first be deployed to county office buidlings, then are expected to be installed in community centers and parks starting in August.

Arlington County is installing vending machines in its County offices that will supply staff with healthier snack options.  Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada kicked off the effort at a Healthy Vending Tasting event at Court House Plaza today.

“Arlington County is committed to promoting a Culture of Fitness to community and staff. Two years ago we installed healthy vending machines in some of our community centers.  Now we are providing healthy vending options in Court House Plaza and other County office buildings,” said Chairman Tejada.

The plan is to start with having about 50% of the snacks in these machines meet the County’s guidelines for healthy vending.  It is expected that in time staff will come to prefer the healthier options and the County will gradually increase the amount of healthy food offered. “Our goal is for all our FitArlington machines to meet 100% of the County’s guidelines for healthy vending,” said Chairman Tejada.

So what’s healthy vending?  In 2010, Arlington County developed guidelines to improve the quality of foods in its vending machines.  Arlington is one of the first communities on the East Coast that did this. At the time, in fact, it was very difficult to find a vending machine company that would meet the County’s requirements and the County worked with a vending company in California. Now, one of the largest vending companies in the area, Canteen, can support the effort. Vending machines that meet the County’s guideline include:

  • No more than 250 calories per item
  • No more than 35% calories from fat, and no more than 10% from saturated fat
  • No trans fats added during processing  and only two or less grams of naturally occurring trans fats
  • No more than 35% of the total weight of a snack can come from sugar and caloric sweeteners with the exception of fruits and vegetables.
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • At least of 75% of the snack choices in each machine will have 150 milligrams or less of sodium per serving.
  • And at least 75% of the snack choices will have two grams or more of fiber per serving
  • And for beverages, we’ll offer healthier choices such as water, low-fat milk, 100% fruit /vegetable juices and low-calorie teas utilizing natural sugars as sweetener. Our FitArlington Healthy Vending machines will have water but remember that it’s better for the environment to bring your own bottle and fill it up at a nearby drinking fountain.

In August, Arlington County will begin updating vending machines in community centers and parks. Community machines will be 100% healthy vending because children have access to the community machines and may not have the information or training to choose healthy foods over sugary snacks.  As such, all their options will be healthy.  Long Bridge Park is our first community facility with FitArlington Healthy Vending machine.

Providing access to healthy snacks is just one of ways Arlington County tries to support healthy lifestyles among staff. The insurance programs the County offers employees provide additional support to help improve health and prevent disease. From nutritional counseling, online health assessments and preventive screenings, the County provides staff with the information to stay healthy and strong.

Arlington also offers a number of great programs through Health Smart, the employee health and wellness program.  There are convenient exercise classes and fitness centers for employees throughout the County.  In 2012 the County added the Health Smart Wellness Clinic in Court House Plaza with a monthly mobile clinic at the Trades Center.

“I’d like Arlington County to be a model employer for supporting employee health and fitness,” said Chairman Tejada.  “In fact, these great new healthy vending machines are available to private employers as well. Hopefully in time, people will recognize the FitArlington logo on machines and know there will be healthy options inside.”