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If you seek a Mountain Dew, L.A. County machines just won't do

August 19, 2009 | 11:54 am


Before the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to make the food in most of its vending machines more healthful, it heard from people who wanted to comment on the idea. Among them was the director of recreation and community services for the city of Baldwin Park, Manuel Carrillo.

Baldwin Park passed a similar motion in 2003, and it has since taken several other actions to improve the health of its residents. According to Marlen Garcia, a City Council member, the city has many young families that need education and assistance in finding ways to buy and eat nutritious food.

In L.A. County, 400 to 500 vending machines will be required to offer only choices that meet guidelines set by the state for machines and student stores in schools. The guidelines limit fat and sugar in foods, among other things.

When Baldwin Park switched vending machine choices from fried chips to baked, and from soda to water (sports drinks are still there  too), there was some griping from adults but not from young people, Carrillo said. Initially, there was a slight decline in revenue, “but it quickly returned to normal revenue,” he said after the vote.

“If someone is thirsty after they play in a basketball game, it really doesn’t matter,” he said, adding that they’ll take a sports drink or water if soda is not available.

And he should know: All that health information prompted him to cut down on sodas, change his eating habits and exercise more. He lost 30 pounds.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo: Maribel Carmona buys a drink at Santa Ana City Hall. Photo by Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times