Bell Gardens, Calif. officials passed a healthy vending policy last night for city-owned youth recreation centers and parks. The vending policy will eliminate youth access to regular and diet sodas and other sugary drinks, including sports drinks and energy drinks. The new food standards will match the requirements of the Montebello Unified School District's policy, which will reduce the allowable calories, fat and salt in products available for purchase.
In a move that demonstrates the city's commitment to fighting the obesity on the front lines, the policy will help to reach parents and their families where they live, work, learn and play. The five city council members voted unanimously in favor of this new policy.
"The city of Bell Gardens wants to be a model for children and families who use our facilities," said Mayor Jennifer Rodriquez in a prepared statement. "Sugar-sweetened beverages and high calorie, fat-laden snacks are hindering our efforts to reduce childhood obesity in our city."
The economic costs associated with being overweight or obese and lack of physical activity cost Los Angeles County nearly $12 billion in health care and lost productivity in 2006, and these costs are not declining, Bell Gardens officials noted. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's RENEW LA County initiative is working with cities like Bell Gardens to establish policies that will promote health for all residents.
"Communities, businesses, health care providers and governments can play a supportive role in providing helpful information and fostering environments that support parents' healthy choices," said Dr. Paul Simon, MD, MPH, Director of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Last year, Bell Gardens joined the Healthy Eating Active Living Cities Campaign (HEAL), a statewide campaign led by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA) that supports city policies and environments to reduce local obesity and physical inactivity rates.
"Being a HEAL City and adopting this policy provides better resources for our families," said Mayor Pro Tem Sergio Infanzon.
One in four California youth between the ages of 9 and 16 is obese, with a 29 percent prevalence of childhood obesity in the city of Bell Gardens. Bell Gardens Recreation & Community Services Director Pamela Wasserman said the vending policy will help kids and parents establish healthy eating patterns.
"We strongly believe that we need to take a stand against diabetes and the high obesity rates that are plaguing our children," Wasserman said. "We believe by providing healthy options in vending machines located in our Parks & Recreation facilities, that our children if hungry will choose a 'healthy' option and become accustomed to a healthier approach to eating."
The council heard from several proponents, including city staff and a local community-based organization, The Family Health Care Centers of Greater Los Angeles. They also heard expert testimony from the LA County Department of Public Health in support of health policy changes as a means of improving population health. Local youth also voiced their support for the policy.
Bell Gardens joins Baldwin Park, El Monte, Huntington Park, La Puente and South El Monte as cities to pass healthy vending policies in LA County under RENEW LA County and CCPHA.