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Making Change - City Pushes Healthy Food
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Riverbank will start offering healthier food and drink in city-owned vending machines as a gesture toward stemming the national tide of obesity and to fulfill a promise it made to the League of California Cites to become a Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) City.

The new policy requires all items have no more than 35 percent of its calories from fat, no more than 10 percent of its calories from saturated fat, be no more than 35 percent sugar by weight and be no more than 250 calories.

The standards for beverages require they be fruit and vegetable based drinks that are at least 50 percent fruit juice without added sweeteners. Milk products must include two percent, one percent, non-fat, rice and other non-dairy drinks.

At the June 27 Riverbank City Council meeting, Mayor Virginia Madueno and Councilmember Dotty Nygard favored imposing the same kind of restrictions as the State of California has required of school districts in cutting the sugar and fat content of all items in a vending machine.

Council members Richard O'Brien and Jeanine Tucker, however, wanted to offer citizens some choice, as the Network For A Healthy California recommends, and require only half the items to conform to the higher nutritional standards. But they must be placed at the top of the machine and sold at a price equal to or lower than the unhealthier items.

Tucker eventually changed her vote in order to break the tie and pass at least the reduced measure.

Interim City Manager Pam Carder noted this policy would affect only vending machines that are in city facilities. It does not restrict, for example, what is served by people who rent the Community Center.

The city currently receives about $1,200 per year in revenue from vending machines. Adoption of the policy could reduce this amount by half.

A 2008 CDC nutrition report found in the Riverbank Unified School District more than 41 percent of its children had an unhealthy body weight and only 25 percent of freshman students met all fitness standards. Sixty-seven percent of adults are overweight or obese and the local obesity rates are higher than the statewide rate of 56 percent.

More than half of California's adults are either overweight or obese and more children are being diagnosed with diseases linked to excessive weight and previously only seen in adults such as diabetes and heart disease.

Looking at the problem in money terms, a 2006 California Center for Public Health Advocacy study estimated the cost to California for overweight, obesity and physical inactivity that year to be $41.2 billion. Of the total cost, 21 billion was attributable to overweight and obesity and the remainder to physical inactivity. Half of the total amount was spent on health care and half came from lost productivity. If this trend continues, total cost to the state will increase to 52.7 billion in 2011. Among California's counties, Los Angeles County with its large population accounted for more than one-quarter of all the costs.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week for adults and at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity for children every day.