Healthy Choices Left Out of Airport Concession Debate

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The Orange County Board of Supervisors is set to decide Tuesday who gets the new food service contract at John Wayne Airport.

So far the debate has centered almost exclusively on how much money the county will earn under a new concessionaire and whether the contract should go to the company with the most OC-based vendors, or the one with more traditional food chains.

The Orange County Register reported last week that one of the two bidders upped its offer by $10 million to make it more competitive. Whichever concessionaire wins — Delaware North or HMS Host — the county is expected to take in $34 million to $39 million.

But left out of the discussion is which prospective concession would offer the healthiest food to the more than 8 million travelers who pass through each year.

John Wayne Airport Director Alan Murphy said healthy eating options were not included when the county staff designed the request for proposals on airport eating options.

And county Chief Executive Tom Mauk said they shouldn’t be.

“It hasn’t been a criteria in the past,” Mauk said. “Health is an individual choice. As long as the airport provides a wide spectrum of choices and variety, people can choose.”

Other airports do things differently.

In Atlanta, where Hartsfield-Jackson International claims the title of world’s busiest airport, serving 88 million passengers a year, its 114 food and beverage concessions include some that serve only healthy food, like fresh salads, fruit, light sandwiches and vegetables.

“It’s not really a recent trend,” said airport spokesman Al Snedeker.

“We try to meet our passenger needs,” he said, “particularly now with the airlines not providing food as they once did, providing food in the terminal and concourses is even more important.”

And, Snedeker said, offering healthy eating options is considered a passenger need.

— TRACY WOOD and NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

 

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