911 dispatchers exempt from SF healthy vending machine proposal

San Francisco’s 911 dispatchers may still be able to get their sugar high from vending machines, but for the rest of city government, those days are coming to an end.

Supervisor Mark Farrell’s legislation to ban junk food in the approximately 150 vending machines on city property advanced closer to approval Wednesday.

Instead of junk food, The City’s vending machines will only dispense foods that meet the mandated nutritional guidelines related to levels of fats, sugar and sodium. Candy is prohibited except for sugar-free mints and gum, and chips are also banned unless they are baked or pretzels. Prepackaged foods like nuts and seeds or fat-free cheeses are allowed.

No items can have more than 200 calories per serving and more than 240 milligrams of sodium per serving, and no more than 35 percent of calories can stem from fat, are among the guidelines.

Farrell called the proposal “one of the strongest policies in the country.”

“We should do everything in our power to implement policies that seek to educate the public about healthy eating choices and lifestyle habits and also policies that seek to make the healthy choice an easy choice,” said Farrell at Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee.

Farrell said he amended the legislation to exempt Department of Emergency Management from the requirement as a result of a meet and confer process with labor union SEIU 1021, which represents Department of Emergency Management’s 911 emergency dispatch employees.

He said he wasn’t certain exactly why the exemption was sought, but a member of his staff said the workers wanted to have continued access to energy drinks.

The legislation also calls upon city departments at city meetings and city-sponsored events to use their “best efforts” to provide nutritional foods, including water and vegan and vegetarian options.

The committee voted to send the legislation to the full board for a vote Tuesday. Supervisor Katy Tang said, “I am really excited about encouraging more vegetarian and vegan options, as I have struggled [for] many years.”

Chris Tsakalakis, chairman of the board for the Bay Area chapter of the American Heart Association, said the legislation will help people make the right diet choices.

“Any ordinance that makes it easier for consumers to make a healthy choice is always a better choice,” he said.

San Francisco has long promoted healthier foods, from planning to ask voters for a second time this November to approve a soda tax to, perhaps most famously, banning McDonald’s Happy Meal toys in 2011.

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