At the same time as a high-end shopping mall vending machine in Burbank, California is beginning to dispense caviar, truffles and escargot, city employees in Chicago are looking at the possibilities of finding kale smoothies and organic, gluten-free soy crackers in their vending machines.
It’s all part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ongoing effort to make people healthier in the Windy City, whether they like it or not. Taking a page from fellow mayor Michael Bloomberg’s playbook, Emanuel is imposing new rules on what people can get from vending machines by the only means he can right now — sticking it to his own workforce.
An ordinance was introduced in mid-November to impose content restrictions as a part of the new vending machine contract covering the stocking snacks and drinks in over 350 machines in 90 Chicago-owned or leased buildings.
If imposed at the beginning of 2013 as planned, only 25 percent of cold beverages sold can contain 25 or more calories per eight-ounce serving. Hot beverages can only be a maximum of 25 calories. Nothing other than water or seltzer can be dispensed in servings of over 12 ounces (despite an assertion by Emanuel that he does not want to go all Bloomberg on his city and ban alleged oversized drinks).
In snack machines, at least three-quarters of the content must be 250 calories or less per serving. Five items must also be low sodium. At least one item cannot contain gluten or nuts.
And all the prices must be approximately equal, apparently despite the possibility of the costs of the new and old items being legitimately different.
As Emanuel puts it: “These new vending machines will make it easier than ever before for city employees and the public to make healthy lifestyle choices.” Buy essentially making the choice for them?
Emanuel calls this nudging of city employees “tak[ing] their wellness into their own hands.” But isn’t reducing employee choice of old products to promote likely-untested new items more of an imposition of authority than true freedom of choice?
What’s next? Facial recognition cameras to catch who is perusing what in the vending machines? “Trash cams” to make sure employees are eating everything and not just pushing that lentil cake around their plates?
And what happens if the old 25 percent of snacks remain so popular that they need constant restocking? Perhaps the Emanuel Administration might say that delivery schedules must be restricted or otherwise scaled back out of concern for increased carbon emissions.
While New York City — with the Bloomberg Administration’s heavy-handed agenda of mandated calorie counts, soda bans and a war on trans-fats, among other things — is clearly the gold standard example of a nanny state gone wild, Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel is clearly trying to catch up.
Last year, it was a optional wellness program for Chicago employees. Optional, that is, provided that those who chose not to participate also didn’t mind an extra $50 increase in their monthly health insurance premiums. Healthways director Charlie Moore, whose company won the Chicago wellness program contract, called Emanuel’s forced fitness program “changing the culture to a culture of wellness.” But Moore nonetheless admitted the method of persuasion was “very aggressive.”
Now it’s the content of the city-administered vending machines.
As I have speculated before, it is so important to follow these nanny state policies being implemented in New York City, California and other places because they are often used as model and encouragement for others to adopt similar policies.
Case in point, Mayor Rahm Emanuel. This is the same mayor who — during the height of increased crime this past summer on the streets of Chicago — decided to outsource public safety to the Nation of Islam. We wonder how safe the citizens of Chicago felt with radical Nation of Islam members patrolling the streets?
Since Mayor Emanuel appears to think he has solved all of his city’s problems, he now has turned his attention to being a nutrition expert — following in the footsteps of New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Indeed, he earned the title of vice mayor of the nanny state!
first photo credit: iStockPhoto.com