At General Committee this week, as the current contract for canteens and vending machines is coming to an end(April), Council had before it a report on an RFP in regards to the canteens and vending machines in Town facilities. The RFP needs to go out as soon as possible. As per the report, staff were recommending:
• That cold beverage vending machines offer a minimum of 25% of beverage options as low-sugar or sugar-free products;
• That snack food vending machines offer a minimum of 20% healthy options to be selected by the vending operator, subject to Town approval;
• That concession stands offer a minimum of 25% of cold beverage options as low-sugar or sugar-free products;
• That concession stands offer a minimum of five (5) healthy food options to be selected by the concession operator, subject to Town approval; and
• That the RFP be issued for a contract term of three (3) years, with two (2), three-year renewal options.
A group of concerned residents came to Council to speak to the matter of food and beverages that are made available to residents in Town-owned facilities. The delegations were very informative. They discussed how we need to provide a higher percentage of healthy foods and then they provided some concrete examples of what could be done and what has been done in other municipalities, successfully.
It was great to hear from the residents and parents and kids that use the facilities. As I said at the table, there is message was heard loud and clear – and I couldn’t agree more! The Town absolutely needs to provide more healthy options and what was being proposed in the report just won’t cut it. I believe that we can do better and that our residents deserve better.
After a lot of debate, I believe Council ended where we were all wanted – a re-think of the RFP. We asked that staff rewrite the RFP to include a requirement that bidders must include a minimum of 55% healthy food options, that Staff consider and incorporate where possible all the different recommendations that were provided by the Real Food First: Fueling Our Community in Fitness & Fun Delegation,. By doing so, the Town of Aurora can take a leadership role in providing healthy options to our kids and all residents who use our Town facilities. There was some concern raised about subsidizing and costs, but as I said at the table… I don’t believe we can put a price on the health of our children! Clearly, as this is tax-payer money, we need to ensure that any decision we make is fiscally responsible. However, I believe that we can provide healthy food in a cost-effective manner that is reasonably priced for our residents. If other municipalities can do it, why can’t we? I am looking forward to staff bringing the revised RFP back to Council for review at the March 20th meeting.
I want to offer my sincere thanks to the residents who came forward last night to make the presentation. Their hard work has been simply incredible. In no small part to their informed advocacy about the importance of healthy food options and their focus on positive change, we as a Town can take the important steps towards providing healthy food in our facilities!!