St. Pete vending machines trading junk for healthy

Crystal Clark reports

- If you're craving candy or soda, those items could be harder to find in the city of St. Pete. City leaders announced plans to stop filling vending machines with sugary treats.

Through next year, this new policy is going to affect all vending machines in city-owned facilities  that means public parks, city pools and city hall, just to name a few.

"We were offering, 'Come to our parks. Come and get outdoors,' but the food we were offering is a little bit high in fat and sodium, so we really wanted to change over our vending machines," explained Healthy St. Pete’s supervisor II, Kim Brasher.

That means no more Oreos and Cheez-its. Through November of 2017, high sugar and high fat snacks will be phased out of more than 80 city-owned vending machines in places like the JW Cate Recreation Center.

"The Gatorade here is the actual true Gatorade, you know. It's not the half calorie or the Gatorade Zero," described JW Cate Rec Center counselor Casey LePak. "We live in a country where the kids are pretty unfit. I think it will be good to put the more healthy stuff in the vending machines for the kids' sake."

LePak says working with children every day, he sees firsthand what a poor diet can do to them.

But it's also the adults' poor choices city officials want to curb. Of Florida’s 67 counties, Pinellas County is ranked number 27 when it comes to health. The area has more adults with high blood pressure and high cholesterol than the state and national averages.

"We're middle of the road. We can do a lot better," Brasher said. "They may not get that candy bar, but they may get something a little more nutritious, that might hold them over a little better with a whole grain option, so it's important for us to offer those things for our community."

Some of the new items you'll start to see in vending machines are whole grain crackers, granola bars and seltzer water, instead of soda. They say this change is going to impact nearly 3,500 St. Pete employees and 250,000 residents.

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