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Better Food from a Machine

Could combating America's obesity epidemic just be a matter of incorporating the ABCs of eating well into the purchasing environment? Dr. Arthur Garson Jr., executive...
by | February 4, 2009
 

Could combating America's obesity epidemic just be a matter of incorporating the ABCs of eating well into the purchasing environment? Dr. Arthur Garson Jr., executive vice president and provost of the University of Virginia, thinks it could help. Not long ago, he created the Healthy Vending Program at the UVa Health System in an effort to help consumers make choices that promote overall health and weight management. The program groups snack and beverage vending-machine items by colored stickers according to how nutritious they are. The green group is the healthiest, its items are low in saturated fat, total fat and calories; the yellow items have higher saturated-fat content and should be eaten in moderation; and the red items are highest in saturated fats, total fat and calories. To further discourage purchasing red items, a 5-cent surcharge has been added -- the extra nickel supports the UVa Children's Fitness Clinic. At Governing's Outlook in the States and Localities conference this week, Garson told attendees that after one year sales on the green items increased by 16.5 percent, while there was a 5 percent decrease in the sale of red items. The kicker is that the Children's Fitness Clinic got $7,000 in nickels. Garson thinks experiments like his lend more credence to ideas like New York State's proposal to charge an 18 percent sales tax on sugary sodas and juice drinks.

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