Alexandria, VA: New Healthy Vending Machines Coming To City Facilities

Nov. 18, 2014

The City of Alexandria has adopted a new policy requiring vending machines in City facilities to stock only healthy beverages and snacks, and new machines will soon arrive at City recreation centers, offices, and other locations.  The “Healthy Alexandria” initiative requires vending items to adhere to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards.  The new machines will offer name-brand bars, chips, and other satisfying snacks that provide healthy choices, including fresh fruit and vegetables.  The Healthy Alexandria initiative was made possible with funding from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.

“We’re proud to be a leader in modeling healthy choices for the entire Alexandria community,” said Katie Leonard, a public health planner in the Alexandria Health Department.  “This policy recognizes that in addition to being a large employer, the City is also a public health agency, adult and youth fitness organizer, children’s activity provider, and public facility operator.  We want to respect, protect, and enhance the health of everyone in Alexandria.”

The new nutrition standards generally require snacks to contain at least 50% whole grain or have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, or a protein food. Snacks must also contain no more than 200 calories, 35% fat, 35% sugar, or 200mg salt.  Healthy beverages include water, nonfat or low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice, and low-calorie flavored or carbonated drinks.  The new machines will also accept credit cards, meet federal Energy Star requirements to operate with greater energy efficiency, and offer improved customer service.

A 2013 survey of City employees found that 83% of respondents favored a healthy vending machine policy, and a majority cited unhealthy items as a deterrent to using the machines.  The new policy does not limit what snacks employees may choose to consume; rather, it prevents the City from being the provider of unhealthy items.

The new machines will be launched with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon on November 13, at Alexandria City Hall, 301 King St.  The event will include remarks by Mayor William D. Euille and Alexandria Health Director Dr. Stephen A. Haering, and free samples of healthy vending items.