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Howard County government is trying to bring more nutrition to nibbling by staff members and guests.
The county is seeking bids now for healthy vending machines in county buildings. In line with a law passed by the county council in 2015, the new vending machines on Howard County government property will include at least 75 percent healthy snacks and drinks.
Drinks will include water, fruit and vegetable juices, and non-fat and low-fat milk. Snacks will include no trans-fat, no more than 200 calories per package, and less than 35 percent of calories from fat.
The law also requires healthier foods and drinks at youth-oriented county government programs.
County Executive Calvin Ball (D) – who sponsored the legislation when he was on the county council – announced the opening of the bids on Monday. It is the first vending machine contract renewal since the bill passed in 2015.
“When I championed this legislation on the County Council, I was responding to community concerns about growing obesity rates and preventable health risks. Today, I am glad to take the next step forward on behalf of our employees, residents, and, most importantly, our kids’ health and wellness,” Ball said in a news release. “This change is about taking responsibility as a government to offer healthier options on our property.”
Ball went on to say that while Howard County was recently listed as one of the 10 healthiest communities in the country by U.S. News & World Report, the goal is to become the best and not to overlook parts of the county which are struggling. Ball noted that 60 percent of residents have body mass indexes in the overweight or obese range; that 14 percent of residents are diabetic or pre-diabetic; and that more than 40 percent of county residents earning less than $50,000 a year get less than one serving a day of fruits or vegetables.
Several jurisdictions in Maryland require healthy vending options including Baltimore, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, and the city of Baltimore.
Bids for vending services in Howard County are due Aug. 14 and the contract will be awarded Sept. 13.