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The United States Department of Health and Human Services unveiled its Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations. This strategy of prevention coincides with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to create a generation of healthier children in America. By aligning the food available at its facilities with the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, HHS has developed a model that will serve as the framework for similar efforts to provide healthy options here in California and across the country. Offering healthier food options creates an atmosphere that promotes wellness, while adopting sustainable procurement practices invests in local and regional economies and is better for the environment.

Using the HHS guidelines as a model, CPEHN has sponsored AB 727 (Mitchell) which would require California to adopt a similar healthy and sustainable food procurement policy for state buildings.

As one of the nation’s leading agricultural systems, California is uniquely positioned to provide nutritious food options while adopting sustainable practices that invest in local economies and have a minimal impact on the environment. Adopting a healthy food procurement policy will also decrease health costs by reducing conditions like obesity and diabetes. For example, Los Angeles County, as part of its Policies for Livable, Active Communities and Environments (PLACE) program, not only adopted a healthy vending machine policy, but also began requiring healthy foods in their public hospitals and clinics. In addition, the county recently passed a motion that requires all 37 county departments to consult with the Department of Public Health on their food services contracts. This concerted effort toward prevention has increased the availability of healthy foods for all Angelinos.

This movement toward healthier food options comes at a critical time. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 72 million Americans are obese. From 1980 through 2008, obesity rates for adults have doubled and rates for children have tripled. In 2006, obesity, overweight, and physical inactivity cost California upwards of $41 billion in health care costs and lost productivity, nearly double the amount reported in 2000. A recent study also showed that 35 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented through healthier food options and increased physical activity.

The new HHS guidelines will be invaluable in efforts to promote healthy eating and sustainability. Having a prevention-oriented approach at the national level will fuel our local efforts. While obesity has numerous, complex causes, approaches that make healthy choices available, affordable, and easy are the most effective.

You can help build  AB 727. Download and send in a letter of support today!

Ellen Wu is the Executive Director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN).

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