The Montgomery County Council is currently considering a bill that would increase the amount of healthy foods found in vending machines in Montgomery County. Councilman George Leventhal is the lead sponsor of the bill, which has the support of a majority of the board.
Leventhal states, “We want Montgomery County to be the healthiest county in America.” The Council also wants to decrease the child obesity rate in Montgomery County, since 25% of the children in Montgomery County are obese. Increasing the amount of healthy food in vending machines can help combat obesity and create healthy eating habits for children.
Currently, Montgomery County contains 168 vending machines, which can be found in schools, libraries, and other public areas. Every day, many students and adults use vending machines to grab a quick snack or meal.
The bill proposes that vending machines contracted after July 2017 must contain at least 50% healthy foods. The bill requires healthy foods to meet a number of criteria. One of the criteria is that the food has to be approved by the American Heart Association.
In addition to requiring at least half of vending machine foods to be healthy, the healthy foods have to be displayed in high-profile slots and should be lower priced than the other junk foods.
“This bill is a no-brainer for anybody except, perhaps, a lobbyist for the soda companies,” said Lindsey Parsons, who is part of the Real Food for Kids Montgomery organization, which promotes healthier eating for children.
However, there are some problems to the bill. Tesia Shi, a student at Richard Montgomery High School, pointed out, “While I think the intent of putting healthier foods in vending machines is a good idea, I don’t think it will work unless the healthy food is as tasty as the junk food or if the entire vending machine is healthy food.” Despite the bill’s good intent to reduce child obesity and create healthier eating habits, people can still choose to purchase junk foods in vending machines rather than healthy foods.
In addition to Montgomery County, Howard County already passed a bill similar to the proposed bill. Prince George’s County is also considering a bill that requires healthy foods be put in vending machines.
Ultimately, whether the bill is passed or not, the intent of the bill can serve as a reminder to Montgomery County residents to try to eat healthier foods and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Justin Zhang of Richard Montgomery High School