Leventhal Bill Would Require Healthy Options in Vending Machines on County Property (VIDEO)
Montgomery County already is the healthiest county in Maryland. Councilmember George Leventhal wants to make the county the healthiest in the nation, and he’s targeting the snacks and drinks sold in vending machines.
He is the lead sponsor for a bill that would require half the items for sale in vending machines on county property meet the American Heart Association’s recommended nutrition standards for sugar, salt, fat and other measures.
Despite the county’s reputation for passing “nanny state” legislation, Leventhal said Tuesday he wasn’t planning on having his legislation apply outside of the 168 machines the county has in its buildings.
“I’m not eager to rush in and tell stores or private businesses what legal products they may sell. That’s not where we’re headed. We’re talking about machines on government land, and it does matter what message government is sending,” Leventhal said at a news conference about his legislation.
Councilmember Craig Rice, a cosponsor on the legislation, said many companies are providing healthier vending machine options for their employees.
“They’re currently doing these things also. This is in line with what we see as a movement,” Rice said.
The council has not completed a study projecting the revenue of the companies that contract with the county to maintain the vending machines. Rice thought the companies could see a boost. Rather than skip over something unhealthy, some people might choose a snack knowing it meets the guidelines.
“It’s the right thing for us to do. It’s the right message to send,” Councilmember Craig Rice, a cosponsor, said at a news conference for the bill.
Despite the county’s health, nearly 60 percent of adults are overweight or obese, Shawn McIntosh, executive director of Sugar Free Kids Maryland, said. One in four children is overweight or obese. Cardiovascular disease is the county’s No. 1 killer and 25 percent of adolescents have Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Type 2 diabetes is chronic disease in which the body cannot process glucose properly. Long term, high blood glucose levels can hurt eyes, kidneys, nerves or the heart, according to the American Diabetes Association.
“We’re only asking 50 percent healthy options in all vending machine for snack foods and beverages,” McIntosh said.
In addition to Leventhal and Rice, the bill also is cosponsored by Council President Roger Berliner and Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer.
The council held a hearing on the measure Tuesday. It is expected to be the subject of a worksession of the council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee on March 30.