Montgomery County restaurants will be required to offer a healthy children’s meal option

The Montgomery County Council has passed a new bill that will require restaurants to serve at least one healthy children’s meal option. 

Bill 1-22, titled "Eating and Drinking Establishments – Healthy Meals for Children," passed 8-1 Tuesday with only Councilmember Andrew Friedson dissenting.

"We’ve got [to] make sure that we’re changing toe paradigm that currently exists to where a huge amount of kids of color are obese. And we know what that leads to. That leads to hypertension, that leads to diabetes, that leads to heart disease," said Councilmember Craig Rice ahead of the vote. "It leads to all the precursors that we know makes us more susceptible for things like the global pandemic."

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Rice introduced the bill with co-sponsors, focusing on equity and the child obesity issue that’s only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Heart Association is among a number of groups supporting this bill.

The "Healthy Meals for Children" bill says the healthy option must include two or more of the following: unfried fruit or vegetables, 51% or more of whole grain ingredients and/or a lean protein. There’s also a healthy beverage option requirement —  so no drinks that contains sugar or artificial sweetener. 

Some restaurant owners who support healthy meal options tell FOX 5 what the county is asking for is not that simple

Omar Lazo serves as the Montgomery County Latino Restaurant Association President and owns Los Churros Restaurant in Wheaton. 

"For some people it’s an easy change. You know, just putting something else on their menu. Other people have to incur costs in having to print out completely new menus," Lazo said. "There’s also people concerned about having to stock new items that may have to go bad if not sold."


Lazo told FOX 5 there is no data that demonstrates a similar bill previously passed in Prince George’s County helped "move the needle."

"Yeah, you want to be able to go to a place, so your child can have something healthy," said Spencer Smith, general manager of The 4 Corners in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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Councilmember Friedson introduced an amendment that would have only included businesses that have 20 or more chains, leaving the smaller "mom and pop" restaurants out of it. That amendment was voted down.

The bill does not actually require children to pick the healthy meal option, just for restaurants to offer it. Changes will be phased-in. 

The healthy child beverage requirement is not expected to start until a year after the bill is signed into law. Around 18 months after, or around January 2024, is when council members say the children’s healthy menu option will likely change.