Announced via press release:

Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced that the Howard County Office of Purchasing has begun soliciting bids for healthy vending machines in Howard County government buildings and facilities. The bids are due August 14th and the contract will be awarded September 13th. Interested companies and vendors can bid for this contract here.

“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,” said Ball. “This change is about taking responsibility as a government to offer healthier options on our property. Howard County is making a declaration to our region and beyond that we will lead by example to expand choice and promote community wellness. U.S. News and World Report recently ranked Howard County in the top ten healthiest communities in the nation. Our vision is to get to number one.” 

Howard County is a top-ranked jurisdiction for health, with the highest rate of health insured residents in the state. However, there are important areas to improve:

  • Residents in households making less than $50,000 a year and those with less than high school education are disproportionately more likely to be uninsured
  • 7% of residents have been told they have diabetes. Of those who have not been told they have diabetes, 7% have been told they have pre-diabetes or borderline diabetes
  • 60% of Howard County respondents reported BMI scores in the overweight or obese range
  • Over 40% of residents earning less than $50,000 are getting less than one serving per day of fruit or vegetables

As part of a broad strategy to promote equitable health outcomes, Howard County continues to examine key metrics to determine where disparities exist and find ways to intervene.

This vending machine contract will adhere to the nutritional standards set by CB17-2015, an act “requiring that healthy food and beverage options be provided on certain County properties and for certain county programs.” County Executive Ball introduced this legislation as a county councilmember in 2015 and this is the first vending machine contract renewal since passage of that legislation.

“Making heathy food choices is key to a healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Maura J. Rossman, Howard County Health Officer. “The availability of healthy food and drink options in our county vending machines makes the choice an easy one, leading to better health and a longer life.”

“Four years ago, County Executive Ball blazed the trail for healthy vending legislation in Maryland as a councilmember. Now, Howard County joins six other Maryland jurisdictions in ensuring the healthy choice is the easy choice in our community vending machines,” said Horizon Foundation President and CEO Nikki Highsmith Vernick. “This is a big win for public health, and we look forward to seeing the changes.”

In adherence with CB17-2015, the new vending machines on Howard County government property will include at least 75% healthy snacks and drinks. They will offer water, fruit and vegetable juices, and non-fat and low-fat milk.  Additionally, they will include snacks with no trans-fat, no more than 200 calories per package, and less than 35% of calories from fat. In addition, “all packaged food or beverage items, served or sold as part of youth-oriented County Government programs, shall be healthy.” Full nutritional details can be found here.

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I am actually surprised to hear that “this is the first vending machine contract renewal since passage of that legislation”. Those contracts must be for a long period of time.

75% healthy is good for those wanting a healthy option from vending machines…and 25% normal stuff for those of us that want pure junk food and soda out of those machines (yep…that is what I look for in vending machines).

If you have a picture (or want to take one) of the current vending machines in HoCoGov buildings…send it over to me at scott@scotteblog.com. I would love to have a before and after photos of the items in the machines.

Scott E

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