Gov. Jay Inslee wants healthful food and drinks for state employees

Staff writerNovember 21, 2013 

A new order issued by Gov. Jay Inslee will require healthful food and drinks in state facilities.

That and other directives in Inslee's executive order move state government toward a wellness plan for its employees. The Democrat pitched such a plan during his campaign for governor last year as a major way to cut costs, and he secured it in principle last month during contract negotiations with state-worker unions.

The order calls for technical aid to state agencies in setting up their own wellness programs. It also sets up a State Employee Health and Wellness Steering Committee co-chaired by Health Care Authority Director Dorothy Teeter and Secretary of Health John Wiesman, tasked with helping integrate the wellness program with employee health insurance. That will include help for workers trying to quit tobacco and prevent diabetes, Inslee's office said in a news release.

Healthful food and beverages would be required in vending machines, cafeterias and on-site retail shops, at meetings and events, and in institutions where food is served to prisoners or other people in state custody. School meals, which follow federal guidelines, are exempt. The policies are supposed to closely align with existing rules for federal agencies while also putting a priority on providing Washington-grown products where possible.

The food overhaul doesn't have to be complete until the end of 2016, but each agency must adopt a food policy by July 1. The Department of Health is to provide more details to agencies by March 1.

Inslee's news release quotes Teeter saying: “For too long we have regarded medical insurance coverage as only being the employer's responsibility. We need to look more broadly at the overall structure of wellness and prevention – healthy habits, healthy diet and a commitment to fitness. These are the true elements of building a healthier state workforce."

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