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Columbia City Council Adopts Comprehensive Vending Food Service Policy

The City of Columbia is taking a comprehensive approach to vending and food service at its facilities, meetings and events to improve the quality of health for its employees and all citizens.
Columbia City Council unanimously approved a new policy designed to increase healthy food options in the City at a regular meeting on Tuesday, February 7. “We know how important it is to have healthy lifestyles, and the food we put into our

“We know how important it is to have healthy lifestyles, and the food we put into our bodies is, of course, a major component of that,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “I’m excited that our city will be making changes that help our residents collectively and individually.”

The Healthy Vending and Food Service Policy expands the City’s existing vending machine policy to include food and beverages purchased, sold, served or otherwise provided by the City for its employees as well as guests of any program, event or meeting.

“We know that approximately 32 percent of residents in South Carolina are obese and obesity costs the state $8.5 billion each year in health care costs,” Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine said. “This policy will help reduce those numbers, and provide a stronger nutritional standard when it comes to our vending machines as well as the food and drinks that are served at our events, programs and meetings.”

Councilwoman Devine said the policy helps support Council’s new vision for Columbia, specifically the Empowering Our Residents focus area. In January, City Council revealed its Envision Columbia Vision Statement, which is council’s new strategic plan to improve the overall quality of life in the City.

“This policy falls right in line with our goal of changing the culture of health here in Columbia and we can do that by empowering our citizens with the tools they need to be successful.”

he consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages contribute to the development of preventable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Improving the healthy options for the City’s 2,300 employees as well as those who visit City facilities and public events will have a positive impact on one’s eating behaviors. To do so, the City has partnered with Eat Smart Move More SC and the American Heart Association in implementing the policy.

“The City of Columbia has been a leader in our state and nation in ensuring employees and residents have access to healthy, affordable foods and safe places to be active,” Eat Smart Move More South Carolina Executive Director Beth Franco said. “This policy builds upon the great work the city is already doing by providing healthier food and beverages choices in city parks, recreation centers, office buildings, and at city-sponsored meetings and events. Eat Smart Move More SC is excited to work with the city to support successful implementation of this policy, and we hope other municipalities in South Carolina follow Columbia’s lead.”

Dr. Anil Yallapragada, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate board member with the American Heart Association, said the association supports the City in its efforts to lead by example and applauds the significant attention and importance placed on community wellness and health.

“American Heart Association’s mission statement is building healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Working toward that goal, it has been our pleasure assisting council and staff with the City Vending Food Service Policy,” Dr. Yallapragada said.

“Columbia continues to be a leader in our state and nation putting employee health and citizen health first. Once the city implements the comprehensive policy, it will join New Orleans and Washington, D.C. as part of an elite group working to offer better options and increased food and beverage choices not just for city employees, but also for citizens, families, and children who visit public places in our city.”

Highlights of the City Vending Food Service Policy include:

  • Establishing evidence-based nutrition and food procurement standards that are consistent with the American Heart Association Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage Toolkit Guidance on Vending Machines and establishing evidence-based nutrition and food procurement standards that are consistent with General Service Administration Food Service Guidelines for Federal Facilities for meetings, events, on-site vendors, and cafeterias.
  • The standards shall be fully implemented by the City within one year for vending machines and three years for meetings, events, on-site vendors, and cafeterias, of the date that the final standards are issued.
  • Creation of an employee wellness committee that will plan activities to promote good health and serve as a champion for wellness, and monitor compliance of the policy.
  • Future requests for bids and contracts for the procurement or provision of covered food and beverages by or for City agencies shall incorporate the nutrition and procurement standards.

If you are interested in learning more or would like to adopt a healthy vending and food service policy in your municipality, contact Hannah Walters at Hannah@eatsmartmovemoresc.org.