ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Howard County is now soliciting bids for companies to stock county vending machines that would adhere to new healthier standards and guidelines required by the passage of a recent county bill.
The legislation, CB17-2015, requires “that healthy food and beverage options be provided on certain County properties and for certain county programs,” the bill says. The current procurement cycle is the first chance for new companies to bid since the legislation was passed in 2015.
The new vending machines will have to have at least 75 percent healthy snacks and drinks. Beverage machines are required to sell water, and drinks like fruit and vegetable juice, and non-fat or low-fat milk are prioritized over sugarier options like sodas. Diet drinks may only occupy up to one-third of the beverage options. Snacks in machines must be trans-fat-free, no more than 200 calories, and have no more than 35 percent of those calories coming from fat.
Companies interested in submitting bids must due so before August 14, and contracts will be awarded on September 13. More information about the vendor process and where to bid can be found online.
Howard County generally ranks well in terms of health outcomes for its residents, but it suffers from some of the same systemic issues that are present in other communities throughout the state. Households that make less than $50,000 a year or with leaders of the household lacking anything higher than a high school education face particularly less healthy futures, with 40 percent of those residents getting fewer than one serving per day of fruits or vegetables.
Diabetes is an issue, with 7 percent of the county battling the disease, and another 7 percent of the undiagnosed being told they have pre-diabetes. County residents report that 60 percent of them have Body Mass Index scores in the overweight or obese range.
“Making healthy 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.”