Local health department considers guidelines

PARKERSBURG – Following in the footsteps of the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health’s announcement of health food requirements at public meetings, the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department is looking into implementing similar regulations.

“That is something I would love to do here,” said Dick Wittberg, executive director of the health department. “I read that article and immediately called (Dr. Teresa) Frazer to get a copy of their initiative.”

Wittberg said he contacted Frazer, the deputy state health officer, to see what their guidelines entail so he would not be writing a local program blind.

“I want to know how others have drawn the lines and set their goals so I can take some of their ideas to know that I’m writing something that we can all agree on and follow,” he said.

The bureau’s new guidelines require 50 percent of menus to be “healthy food,” which is defined as food that is baked, not fried, and includes more fruit and vegetable choices. Condiments served must include reduced-fat mayonnaise and salad dressings instead of full fat varieties.

The memo included that no soft drinks containing sugar will be served and that water will always be made available. Diet drinks will be acceptable.

These new requirements only affect food at bureau meetings and other sponsored events where food is purchased using state funds.

According to the bureau’s memo, the goal is to offer healthy food choices at work-related events with the guidelines meant to assist those planning the menu options.

Wittberg said Frazer told him the bureau worked on the guidelines for about two months as part of the larger W.Va. Department of Health and Human Resources project meant to create healthier workplaces.

According to Frazer, the new initiative does not mean some foods, such as fried chicken, will not be offered, just that more healthy options will be available.

“I have heard about other departments doing this and think it is certainly something our office should try,” Wittberg said. “There are some meetings where the board of health has healthy options, but there are times we also just order out pizza, which is not healthy.”