BELL GARDENS - The healthy choice is now an easier choice for residents of Bell Gardens after city officials passed a healthy vending policy for city-owned youth recreation centers and parks, officials announced this week.The vending policy will eliminate children's access to regular and diet sodas and other sugar-loaded drinks, including sports drinks and energy drinks. The new food standards will match the requirements of the Montebello Unified School District's policy, which will reduce the allowable calories, fat and salt in products available for purchase. In a move that city leaders said demonstrates Bell Gardens' commitment to fighting the obesity crisis on the front lines, the policy will "help to reach parents and their families where they live, work, learn and play," officials said. The five City Council members voted unanimously in favor of the new policy. "The city of Bell Gardens wants to be a model for children and families who use our facilities," said Mayor Pedro Aceituno. "Sugar-sweetened beverages and high calorie, fat-laden snacks are hindering our efforts to reduce childhood obesity in our city." The economic costs associated with being overweight or obese and lack of physical activity cost Los Angeles County nearly $12 billion in health care and lost productivity in 2006, and these are costs are not declining, according to statistics provided by Bell Gardens. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health's RENEW L.A. County initiative is working with cities like Bell Gardens to establish policies that will promote health for all residents. "Communities, businesses, health care providers and governments can play a supportive role in providing helpful information and fostering environments that support parents' healthy choices," said Dr. Paul Simon, MD, director of chronic disease and injury prevention at the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Last year, Bell Gardens joined the Healthy Eating Active Living Cities Campaign (HEAL), a statewide campaign led by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy that supports city policies and environments to reduce local obesity and physical inactivity rates. "Being a HEAL city and adopting this policy provides better resources for our families," said mayor pro tem Sergio Infanzon. One in four California kids between the ages of 9-16 is obese, with a 29 percent prevalence of childhood obesity in Bell Gardens. The council heard from several proponents, including city staff and a local community-based organization, The Family Health Care Centers of Greater Los Angeles, before adopting the new policy. They also heard testimony from the L.A. County Department of Public Health in support of health policy changes as a means of improving population health. Local children also appeared at the council meeting and voiced their support of the policy. Bell Gardens joins Baldwin Park, El Monte, Huntington Park, La Puente and South El Monte as cities to pass healthy vending policies.
********** Published: January 3, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 38