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Should Vending Machines Be Taken Out of Schools?

A scary number of American students are obese or overweight, and it’s easy to think of reasons why. I have heard horror stories of kids who will only eat McDonald’s Happy Meals instead of healthy meals, and elementary schools that feed their students food that has the nutritional value of garbage.

However, something that we might not think of right off the top of our heads is the food that students buy for themselves from vending machines that are found in their school cafeterias. Now, the Obama administration is tackling this culprit in its fight to make children healthier. The administration plans to propose new rules concerning vending machines and the foods that are offered through these devices within the next several weeks. Although the exact rules have not been announced, many health advocates think that these rules will reduce the amounts of fat, salt, and sugar that foods and drinks sold in vending machines can contain.

Vending machines do a surprisingly large amount of business in schools. According to the National Academy of Sciences, more than $2 billion worth of sugary treats and sodas are sold in our nations schools through vending machines. So it makes sense that the industries that profit from these sales – such as candy and soda producers – would not want vending machines to be banned from schools.

Christopher Gindlesperger is the director of communications for the American Beverage Association. Gindlesperger says that companies in his industry, such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, have already taken steps to make the offerings in school vending machines healthier.


“Our members have voluntarily reduce the calories in drinks shipped to schools by 88 percent and stopped offering full-calorie soft drinks in school vending machines,” he said.

Many vending machines also now offer some healthier options for children, such as trail mixes and dried fruit. Unfortunately, these products are often placed beside unhealthy treats, like candy bars and cookies. A study conducted between 2006 and 2010 found that when students had the option between the healthy and unhealthy foods, snacking behavior did not change, which means kids were still choosing the unhealthy treats.

So what should schools do in order to help kids makes healthy choices? Should they just remove vending machines entirely? Although this seems a little drastic, it might not be a bad idea.

Roger Kipp is the food service director for the Norwood School District in Ohio. In 2010, Kipp took out the vending machines in his schools and replaces them with an area in the school cafeterias where kids could buy healthier snacks, such as fruit, yogurt, and wraps.

“It took a while, but it caught on,” said Kipp. “You have to give the kids time. You can’t replace 16-years of bad eating habits overnight.”

Via The New York Times



Talking Vending Machines Teach Healthy Eating Habits

generic brand chips and candyWhat would vending machines say if they could talk? Would they tell us to quit punching their buttons so hard or to not shake them when they don’t dispense their goods properly? Well, to the surprise of some students at Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah, several of their vending machines have started talking and what they are saying is actually some pretty good advice.

“I’m a vending machine and can’t move without someone’s help,” one vending machine told a student when he tried to buy a Lava Cake. “Keep buying food like this and we’ll have that in common.”

Yep, the vending machines are offering the students tips on how to stay healthy by avoiding common vending machine foods, like greasy potato chips and fattening chocolate cakes.

The fake vending machines were installed in the school by Intermountain Healthcare in an effort to teach students about healthy eating habits. The vending machines are filled with pretend treats and do not accept money, but they talk whenever students press a button. According to Tamara Sheffield, a medical director with the company, the goal behind the machines is to get students to start thinking about what they are eating but in a lighthearted and entertaining way.

“What we want to do is do things that actually get kids’ attention,” Sheffield said. “If they have fun with it, they’re more likely to listen.”

In 2008, more than 80 percent of middle schools and high schools in Utah sold candy and other unhealthy snacks in their vending machines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this made Utah the state with the highest percentage of unhealthy vending machines in schools, out of the 40 states that were surveyed. By the next year, 15 school districts in the state had taken out vending machines from their elementary schools and 32 charter schools did not have any of the sweets-peddling machines.

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