Fresh Healthy Vending machines are in about 20 locations around the region, including the School of Rock, Jewish community centers, and some Baltimore City middle and high schools.
Fresh Healthy Vending machines are in about 20 locations around the region, including the School of Rock, Jewish community centers, and some Baltimore City middle and high schools. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun photo)

The Sun is right to question why it took Howard County so long to include healthy food in its county vending machines ("So remind us, Howard County, why was providing access to healthy food in vending machines every controversial?” July 17).

In Howard County, we pride ourselves on being trailblazers when it comes to finding ways to ensure our residents can live longer, healthier lives. This was true in 2015 when current County Executive Calvin Ball, then a Howard County council member, championed legislation requiring that 75% of the snacks and drinks in vending machines on county property meet certain health standards.

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The African American Community Roundtable, the Horizon Foundation and dozens of other groups advocated for this law because we believe in making the healthy choice the easy choice. We believe the community, including our government, should create an environment that encourages health.

Sadly, politics got in the way and caused delays, but now we celebrate that the county will soon be getting healthy vending choices. On the bright side, since the original Howard County legislation passed, six other jurisdictions in Maryland instituted similar changes, including Baltimore City and Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties.

Despite Howard County’s being one of the nation’s wealthiest and most educated counties, we still face serious health challenges including significant racial health disparities. Black and brown residents of the county suffer from disproportionately higher rates of heart disease, cancer and diabetes than white residents. Our organization will continue working to change the policies and systems that stand in the way of good health for all our residents.

We just hope that, in the future, the easy choices won’t take as long to be realized.

Larry Walker

The writer is president of the African American Community Roundtable of Howard County.

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