Should Schools Have Vending Machines?
Are vending machines in schools a convenience or a nutritional detriment? The question has been pondered for years, and the debate is often centered around the fat- and calorie-laden junk food that dominates traditional vending machines and contributes to the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. On the flip side is the affordable and convenient access to more nutritional options when healthier fare is placed in the machines.
Past surveys have shown that vending machines have a presence in 43 percent of elementary schools, 74 percent of middle schools, and 98 percent of high schools across the U.S. It seems safe to say that this convenient and inexpensive way to grab a bite to eat or something to drink in schools is here to stay. Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have provided guidelines for the quality of items that should be stocked in school vending machines.
What Are the Benefits of Vending Machines in Schools?
Two primary considerations of vending machines selling snacks and drinks in schools are centered around the nutritional and financial benefits.
There’s a range of benefits from both traditional and healthy vending machines. Vending machines in general provide students with a variety of quick convenience foods that allow them to avoid long cafeteria lines or give them the boost they need to finish off the school day strong. School vending machines can also prevent students from leaving the school campus to buy a quick snack or drink.
However, many vending machines can be packed with snacks that either have very little nutritional value or are straight-up unhealthy. Healthy YOU Vending provides a great alternative for students because they are packed with snacks and drinks that are both nutritious and delicious.
Providing these machines on-site benefits students by providing them with clean and healthy snack options. Making healthier food choices can help with brain function and development as well as improve focus and memory skills, something that benefits students and teachers alike. These foods also sustain energy and boost immunity, something that is very beneficial for the coming cold and flu season. Healthy foods also provide students with more natural energy, so rather than sugar crashes that result in mid-class naps, students will have the energy they need to get through the day and athletes will have the necessary fuel to make it through after-school practices.
Smart Snacks in Schools
Since July of 2014, the USDA has implemented a new set of standards for all snacks or drinks that are sold during school hours that are not reimbursable through federal school meal programs. These foods, called competitive foods, must meet or exceed a particular set of nutritional guidelines to be sold on school property from midnight until 30 minutes after school has been released. Schools must find ways to adhere to this program, known as Smart Snacks in Schools.
There is a very specific set of standards that snacks and beverages sold in schools must follow in order to meet the Smart Snack Nutrition Standards. All snacks are required to have:
- Less than 200 calories
- Less than 35% saturated fat
- 0 grams of trans fat
- Nutritional value instead of “empty calories”
A study from the University of Illinois found that banning vending machines in schools to meet the new USDA standards didn’t necessarily lead to healthier eating. In fact, research indicates that banning vending machines just encourages kids to seek out snacks elsewhere.
The study, which involved 8,200 high school students from 27 states, revealed that 23 percent of students with vending machines at their schools drank at least one soda each day, compared to 28 percent of students without access to school vending machines. Jamie Chriqui, a senior research scientist and co-author of the study, reported that policy changes need to be more comprehensive, rather than focus on just one aspect of the problem.
The Solution: Healthy Vending
By making the switch to healthy vending machines, schools can keep students happy and healthy with snacks and drinks that meet USDA standards. Healthy vending machines contain a wide variety of healthy snack and drink options that even the pickiest eater would enjoy.
How To Get a Healthy Vending Machine in Your School
With more than 1,100 healthy snack and beverage options, schools and healthy vending operators are able to offer plenty of healthy vending machine snacks that appeal to a variety of students and teachers’ tastes and preferences. And with each Healthy YOU Vending machine being owned and operated locally, students and schools themselves can give their own input on which products they like best. With Healthy YOU Vending on-site, kids also learn an important life lesson: healthy eating can be convenient, affordable and taste good.
Healthy YOU Vending is committed to excellence when it comes to improving nutrition in schools. Learn how to bring HealthyYOU Vending to your school at NO COST.