The city of Minneapolis was worried about its employees getting too fat, so it appointed a "wellness" committee that came up with a solution: Offer healthful food in vending machines, in city cafeterias and at meetings with city-funded food.
The City Healthy Food Policy landed on the menu of the Minneapolis City Council Friday, where it was approved by a skinny one-vote margin. But not before the mandate ran into vocal opposition at Thursday's committee of the whole meeting.
"I'm a little bit mortified that we have a whole staff team that spent god-knows-how-many hours talking about whether or not there could be carrots in a vending machine," said Council Member Lisa Goodman. "I think the public is going to see this and say, 'Are you kidding me? You're spending a bunch of time having a task force meeting to discuss food at city events?'"
She added: "What this says to me is that there's too many people working in the Health Department."
Goodman noted that there are few city events featuring food, and she wondered aloud whether employee birthdays would now be celebrated with fruit plates instead of cakes.
Council Member Meg Tuthill also objected to the effect the policy would have on private vendors in city buildings, such as the mini-cafeteria on the first floor of City Hall.
"I think those folks can sell whatever sells for them," Tuthill said. "And that's what they need to do to be able to meet their expenses and meet their overhead."
"I'm just curious if I'm the only one who thinks this is crazy?" she asked.
Council Member Diane Hofstede, a supporter of the policy, said the discussion was becoming overly "extreme." "No one is suggesting that you can never have a Ho Ho in this building for the rest of your life," Hofstede said.
Council Member Cam Gordon also came to the policy's defense, noting that the city bears immense health costs because of unwise eating habits. He said the policy is a good -- and relatively small -- investment.
"I think in the long run it has the potential to actually save us money," Gordon said.
So what does healthful food include? The policy features the following list.
• A variety of grains (especially whole-grain foods)
• Fruits and vegetables
• Fat-free, low-fat or low-calorie foods and beverages
• Foods and beverages that are low in added sugars and sodium
• Small portion sizes
Voting against the policy Friday were Kevin Reich, Sandra Colvin Roy, Gary Schiff, Meg Tuthill and Lisa Goodman. All other council members except the absent Barb Johnson and Don Samuels voted for it.
Staff writer Steve Brandt contributed to this report. Eric Roper • 612-673-1732