Changing county snack machines promotes health

Our view: Sugary, salty treats contribute to an array of diet-related problems
2010-09-08T00:00:00Z Changing county snack machines promotes health Arizona Daily Star
September 08, 2010 12:00 am

Seems like simple common sense to us: Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has decided to remove junk food from vending machines on county property.

As Star apprentice Luke Money reported on Sunday, Huckelberry sent a memo to the County Health Department asking that vending machine contents be inventoried to identify products "that are considered unhealthy and create risk for either diabetes or obesity."

He wrote that he wants a plan in place to remove food selections containing "products that would increase these health risks" from vending machines by the end of October.

That means carting off machines owned by vendors who fail to comply with the county's request for healthful fare, he wrote.

The logic is pretty clear to us. The county provides health-insurance coverage to its employees at great cost; there is an epidemic of obesity in this country and a concomitant increase in obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, which drive up health-care costs.

If the county wants healthy employees, the county ought not to be enticing them to consume processed foods that are laden with additives and stripped of nutrients, or products that are high in sugar products and sodium.

We are well aware that some libertarian-minded, don't-tread-on-me citizens will be outraged, muttering, "Government has no business dictating our diet. Let people make their own choices."

But those same citizens are paying taxes to help support the higher cost of health care for county employees who've put their health at risk by indulging in lousy diets.

Further, we would argue that those who have been using the offending vending machines can still opt for unhealthy dietary choices - they just may have to walk a block or two away from the office to find the chips or candy they crave, or bring snacks from home.

Money reported that Huckelberry's memo was prompted partly by a $15.8 million grant to the Pima County Health Department from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat obesity and tobacco use.

The two-year grant is meant to prompt evaluation of food options now in place and to spur the adoption of policies making sure employees are offered healthful alternatives, Money reported.

The county already has a wellness program where the health department partners with the human resources department to "make workplace health a priority," Gywn Hatcher, county human resources director, told Money.

Sherry Daniels, county Health Department director, told Money the logical next step "is looking at the vending machines themselves to try to get an idea of what we can do to offer better choices and better options."

Makes sense to us. We agree.

Arizona Daily Star

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