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Improvements in the nutritional quality of food purchased by the State of Washington could make it easier for thousands of people to make healthy choices each day. The state prepares more than 20 million meals each year. Agencies like the Department of Corrections and the Department of Social and Health Services purchase food for people who live in state-run residential centers and institutions. State agencies also purchase food for meetings and for vending machines located in their facilities.
This year, Rep. Laurie Jenkins (D, 27th Dist) and six other colleagues proposed House Bill 1801 (a companion blll was also introduced by Sen. Jeannie Kohl-Wells -- Senate Bill 5653) that would require the Department of General Administration to develop a model food purchasing policy with input from the Department of Health. Together the Departments of General Administration, Health, Social and Health Services and Corrections would develop purchasing policies for food served to persons in custody or living in agency settings. Policies would cover types of food purchased, nutritional qualities and portion sizes. The departments would report to the Legislature in 2013 about their model food procurement policies.
In the current budget climate, it is important to know that restaurants that have agreed to healthy food procurement guidelines following Energize Your Meetings standards have found that healthy food procurement can be cost neutral when appropriate portion sizes are used.
This bill is the direct outcome of coordinated effort of many Partners, including agencies, advocacy organizations and coalitions. According to Vic Colman of the Washington State Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, he and others realized the need for a more coordinated approach to advancing policy change around 2003. When he was a legislative liaison with the WA State Department of Health, Colman noted that the various bills regarding nutrition and physical activity were introduced by numerous organizations and were not necessarily strategically aligned. From 2004 - 2006, he worked with partners like the Children’s Alliance, the American Heart Association, and Transportation Choices to integrate state-level policy initiatives. In 2007, a number of organizations came together with some initial funding to formally organize the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition (COPC). The current policy platform of the COPC is to impact food purchasing, active community design, beverage tax structures, and nutrition and physical activity standards in schools and child care settings. This coalition work supports most of the State Plan objectives.
While HB1801 was not enacted in the 2011 legislative session, the bill was reintroduced and retained in present status for consideration at the next legislative session.
The idea of modeling healthy choices in the State’s procurement of food is an idea whose time has come. Colman reported that the bill is being amended with input from the state agencies that would be most affected. With each version of the legislation, the opposition voices diminish and the ability to actually influence real policy change grows stronger.
Featured: March 2011
People in state-run residences, institutions, and agency staff.