Council Passes Bill to Require Establishments to Offer Healthy Children’s Meal Option

The County Council this week passed a law to require food service establishments to offer one healthy option for children’s meals to help combat childhood obesity.

Bill 1-22, Eating and Drinking Establishments – Healthy Meals for Children, would phase in the requirement by first offering a default healthy beverage, followed six months later by a healthy meal option.

“Childhood obesity remains a longstanding problem in our nation and the rate continues to climb impacting our children’s health and quality of life,” said Councilmember Craig Rice (D-District 2), who spearheaded the legislation, said in a press release.

“This bill lays out a minimum threshold over an extended period to ensure that our children have a healthier beverage and meal option available to them, all in order to promote more healthful eating habits throughout their lives,” Rice added.

The legislation defines a healthy meal option as (quoting from the staff report):

  • 1⁄2 cup or more of unfried fruit or unfried vegetables, excluding juice, condiments, or spreads;
  • a whole grain product that:
  • contains, by weight, 51% or more of whole grain ingredients; or
    o lists whole grain as the first ingredient in its ingredient list required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; or
  • A lean protein consisting of:

o one ounce or more of meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, or peas;
o one egg;
o 1⁄2 cup of nonfat or 1% milk or low-fat yogurt, or 1 ounce of reduced fat cheese;

  • a plant-based, non-dairy alternative that:
  • contains the same amount of protein as, or more protein than, an item under this paragraph; and
  • is fortified with calcium and Vitamin D.

A default healthy beverage choice would be:

  • water, with no added natural or artificial sweeteners, flavors or carbonation;
  • 8 ounces or less of unflavored nonfat or 1% milk, or a non-dairy equivalent with no added natural or artificial sweeteners; or
  • 6 ounces or less of 100% fruit or vegetable juice, or a combination of 100% fruit and vegetable juice, with no added natural or artificial sweeteners.

The Health and Human Services Committee, which approved the bill by a 3-0 vote, added amendments that reduced the amount of unfired fruit or vegetables to ¼ cup and added additional beverages to the list of those qualifying as a healthy option.

Under the bill, customers would not be required to order the healthy option.

The terms of the legislation will be phased in, with the healthy beverage required within one year of the bill being signed into law, and the healthy meal six months later.

The bill was passed by a vote of 8-1 with Councilmember Andrew Friedson (D-Distict 1) the sole dissenting vote.

Photo from under Creative Commons license