WA Makes Progress on 1st in Nation Policy

Oct 6, 2015 by

WA Makes Progress on 1st in Nation Policy

By Caroline Messerschmidt

Now it’s easier to eat healthy at work. That is if you work for the state of Washington. Since 2014, State facilities have been making changes to improve access to healthier foods for visitors and staff. Each Executive State Agency utilizes a wellness coordinator to oversee and suggest changes to support overall employee health. The impetus for these healthy changes is Executive Order 13-06, enacted by Governor Inslee in late 2013. The EO made Washington the first state in the nation to have a comprehensive policy for increasing access to healthy foods and beverages on state property.

To date, 31 Executive State Agencies have adopted a healthy food and beverage policy stating they will abide by the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines. Even the agencies that have not yet submitted a policy have begun to make healthier changes like working with vending machine companies to procure healthier foods.

The Department of Services for the Blind (DSB), which holds the contracts for vending machines that are located in State facilities, has been updating vending machine contracts as they come up for renewal. Their new contracts specify that at least 50% of foods available for purchase must meet the healthy vending criteria. In addition, the Department of Health (DOH) and DSB are also working with six cafeteria operators who run nine on-site cafeterias or coffee stands to make sure they implement healthy guidelines, including offering whole grain foods, eliminating trans-fat, and offering low sodium meals. Alyssa Auvinen, Healthy Eating Coordinator at the DOH, shared with us her excitement for the project, “The cafeteria owners are taking the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines seriously, and while there is still work to do before full implementation, I am very encouraged by their efforts to make sure healthy choices are available.”

State agencies are also making changes to support physical activity and enhance the quality of life of their employees. For example, the Department of Retirement Systems encourages employees to walk during lunch or break times by providing color-coded walking maps. During June their Safety and Wellness Committee sponsored a contest to walk all of the routes.

By December 2016, all Executive State Agencies will have achieved full implementation of their healthy food and beverage policy. This fall, The Washington State Department of Health and the University of Washington are partnering to evaluate implementation of the Healthy Nutrition Guidelines. We look forward to sharing those results when they come available.

Special thanks to Alyssa Auvinen at the Department of Health for the update.

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