If you are what you eat, then Montgomery County, Maryland kids could soon have the chance to be healthier. It’s all part of Bill 1-22 Eating and Drinking Establishments - Healthy Meals for Children, which would require restaurants to include certain healthy food and beverage options on their kids’ menus. The County Council introduced the bill on January 11, 2022.
“While children consume 25% of their daily calories from eating out at restaurants, nearly all children’s entrees at the top 50 U.S. restaurant chains fail to meet basic USDA nutrition standards,” said Yolandra Hancock, MD, a pediatrician and member of the American Heart Association Greater Washington Region Board of Directors.
Hancock treats children in her Maryland pediatric office, some of whom already have weight-related chronic illnesses including type 2 diabetes. That’s why she and other medical doctors commend the Montgomery County Council for introducing this bill.
Another doctor supporting this bill – cardiologist Federico Asch, MD. He serves as president of the American Heart Association Greater Washington Region Board of Directors. He wants to see the bill passed because he has witnessed the negative impact excess sugary drinks and unhealthy foods have on heart health.
“On average, children consume more than 30 gallons of sugary drinks, including fruit drinks, sports drinks and soda, every year. That’s enough to fill a bathtub,” explained the cardiologist. “This is especially detrimental among children who come from families with low income where 17% are overweight and another 16% have obesity.”
Bill 1-22 is similar to the Prince George’s County Healthy Kids’ Meals Bill, passed unanimously in November 2020, which requires all restaurants to make water, low-fat milk or 100% juice the automatic beverage options when ordering a meal off a kids’ menu. It also requires restaurants to offer food options in kids’ meals that limit calories, sugar, salt and fat. While restaurants would be required to provide healthier options, parents or guardians could choose any food or beverage options for children.
Councilmember Craig Rice, who serves as chair of the Council’s Education Committee and as a member of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee, introduced the bill. Council President and Chair of the HHS Committee Gabe Albornoz and Councilmembers Will Jawando, Nancy Navarro and Tom Hucker co-sponsored the bill.
“The American Heart Association commends the Montgomery County Council and bill sponsors Councilmembers Rice, Albornoz, Jawando, Navarro, and Hucker for making the health of future generations a top priority,” said Soula Antoniou, Executive Director of the American Heart Association's Greater Washington Region. “Policies like these increase the opportunity for a long and healthy life by making the healthy option an easy choice.”
The hearing for the bill is scheduled for February 1, 2022. The Council is expected to vote on the bill in the coming months. If passed, Montgomery County would lead the nation in having one of the most comprehensive kids’ meals policies, along with their neighbors in Prince George’s.
Raise your voice and tell your Councilmembers you want Montgomery County families to have the option to make it easier to eat healthier! Show your support at https://act.yourethecure.org/rhA8Tr2 or by texting OPTIONS to 46839.