When drivers on Kentucky roads stop at welcome centers or rest stops, they will now be reminded that picking up some baked potato chips, a pack of SnackWells or a Vitamin Water might be a wiser choice than a can of pop or chocolate bar.
Under an initiative called Healthier Highways, YMCA “Food Fight” posters will be placed at vending sites in 23 rest areas and welcome centers. The posters encourage healthy food choices at the point where people are making their purchase.
“Kentucky is the first state in the nation to promote healthier options at state-operated vending sites,” said Joe Meyer, education and workforce development cabinet secretary. “We hope to serve as a model to the rest of the country.”
Healthy choices make up 25 percent of the options in the vending machines, which are operated by the Office of the Blind‘s Kentucky Business Enterprises. The program trains people who are blind to be self-employed operators of snack bars, cafeterias and vending machines in Kentucky.
Kentucky has the seventh highest obesity rate nationwide and the fourth highest rate of childhood obesity, a press release from the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet notes. That is estimated to cost Kentucky more than $1 billion annually in health-care costs, the Kentucky Alliance of YMCAs reports. “Reversing this trend is going to require changes to the environment to facilitate healthier living,” said Ben Reno-Weber, executive director of the Kentucky YMCA Youth Association. “It is going to require new ways of thinking about how people make health choices. And it’s going to require changes in people’s attitudes about food and exercise.”