Atrius Health recently joined a statewide coalition including the American Heart and American Stroke Associations, the Massachusetts Health Council and the Massachusetts Public Health Association urging passage of House Bill 3988 “An Act Relative to Expanding Access to Healthy Food Choices in Vending Machines on State Property.”
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Kulik (D-Franklin), was reported favorably out of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing and the Joint Committee on Public Health and is now before the House Ways & Means Committee.
House Bill 3988 would require all vending machines on state property (including public buildings, parks, and recreation centers) to offer healthy food and beverage options. Currently many of the state vending machines sell snacks and beverages that are high in sugar, trans fat, saturated fat and salt and which provide little to no nutritional value. State and local governments can increase access to healthy foods and beverages sold on public property by requiring all vending service providers ensure that healthier options are sold in vending machines. House Bill 3988 takes a reasonable approach and will add better choices on state property, increasing access to healthier foods and beverages.
Nearly 58% of Massachusetts adults remain overweight or obese. Diet-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and osteoporosis are leading causes of disability and death and reduce productivity and increase absenteeism of the workforce, reducing economic prosperity. Diet-related diseases also increase health care costs to the state, businesses, and individual citizens. In Massachuetts, $1.8 billion in health care costs are attributable to obesity, including $446 million in Medicare costs and $618 million in Medicaid costs.
By improving the quality of foods and beverages available on state property, House Bill 3988 will support healthier eating for the 126,700 full and part-time Massachusetts state employees and countless others visiting state property, and provide the healthy options residents desire. According to a 2010 study by Snack Food Association, 74% of people are trying to eat healthier, with 65% eating specific foods to lose weight. And healthy snack sales are outpacing traditional snacks by 4 to 1. We also believe that the state, having established the successful Mass in Motion program, can ensure that we “walk the walk” and avoid undermining other obesity prevention efforts.
Massachusetts has already established nutrition standards for the foods sold through school vending machines, school stores, and à la carte lines in schools. Now it is time to ensure state employees and visitors have access to healthier options as well.
We ask that members of the House Committee on Ways & Means act quickly to advance House Bill 3988 and help to improve access to healthy food and beverage choices in the Commonwealth.