County vending machines on a diet

If it's a soda you crave after a sweaty basketball game on an L.A. County court, or a candy bar you hunger for while waiting at a county office, you're money's going to be no good in the vending machines.

Taking a cue from standards adopted for California schools, the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to require that all food and drinks in the vending machines in most L.A. County facilities -- including offices, parks and recreation centers, and medical facilities -- meet state nutrition guidelines.

People can expect to see the changes in 400 to 500 machines over the next six months or so, said Yolanda Vera, health deputy for Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who introduced the policy along with Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

"It is essentially eliminating bad choices and causing people to take advantage of good choices," Ridley-Thomas said after the vote.

Rosa Soto of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, a proponent of the new policy, said Los Angeles County was the first to take such action. That could not be verified late Tuesday.

Exactly which items will be allowed or rejected has not yet been decided, Ridley-Thomas said.

And there are exceptions, including sheriff's facilities, where vending machine use is part of a reward system. Also excluded, for up to three years, are beach and harbor facilities, because of existing merchandising agreements, Vera said.

More than half of the county's adults are overweight or obese; healthcare costs in California associated with overweight and obese patients were $12.8 billion in 2006, Soto told the supervisors Tuesday.


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