The United States is truly having a childhood obesity crisis with some school vending machines and snack shops being a huge contributor. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation says 83% of elementary schools, 97% of junior high schools and 99% of high schools have vending machines, school stores or a la carte items in the cafeteria.
While this might not sound like something to be worried about, child obesity rates have tripled over the past 30 years leaving children with health risks such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, bone and joint problems, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.
With recent CDC statistics coming back from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey finding approximately 17 percent of children are obese, some things have to change and many schools and vending machine companies are making changes for the better.
Cincinnati Public Schools are revising their vending machines and campus stores. In a recent article from Cincinnatti.com, the school district has adopted new guidelines limiting calories, fats, sugar, sodium and portion sizes for snacks and beverages. Milk has to be fat-free or low fat with 150 calories or less per 8 oz. serving. Sweet and salty snacks cannot have over 150 calories and these new guidelines limit salt, sugar, and fat content (including saturated and trans fats).
The article also reveals since the new guidelines have been in place, the district has seen an 8.5 percent increase in students buying lunch and a 9 percent increase in students buying breakfast at school. With their success, other surrounding districts have agreed to adopt the same guidelines in the future.
Fresh! Healthy Vending allows students to purchase a variety of healthy options such as juices, smoothies, yogurts, fruit and vegetables giving them the chance to choose natural and organic foods over candy and soda. Their website shows they have gone through three major tests covering nutrition, taste and affordability. Results came back saying they exceeded State Nutrition Guidelines, kids loved the items and their options are available at the lowest possible cost.
So what is the upcoming trend for vending machines? This time they aren’t going green, they are “Going orange.”
Test markets in Cincinnati, Ohio (specifically at Mason High School) and Syracuse, New York are providing all-carrot vending machines for the marketing campaign, “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food.”
This marketing campaign, lead by “A Bunch of Carrot Farmers™,” is composed of carrot farmers from Bolthouse Farms, Coggins Farms, Dan Andrews Farms, Mercer Canyons, Inc. and many others. They sell baby carrots in unique and attractive packaging making it more appealing and best of all, it’s really healthy.
Ohio and New York are two of many states adopting new guidelines and providing healthier options to students. With the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 having expired on September 30, an article from Gourmet.com reveals that it’s hoped lawmakers will put revised standards (which have not been updated since 1979) for vending machines into the new law.
But some members from the National School Boards Association feel such laws could make matters worse, believing it would lead students elsewhere to buy their sugary and unhealthy snacks and beverages as well as angering parents and causing misunderstandings by the banning of certain foods.
No matter what new laws do or don’t bring, you can’t go wrong with providing children healthy foods, snacks and beverages and schools across the country are proving it really can make a difference.