Healthy Vending


Amy Tishler, Reporter

Two CHS students stand by the ice cream vending machine mumbling angrily.  They have put money into the machine, but the ice cream has not come out.  And it never will.  The ice cream vending machine has been shut down, and, by September 30th, all of the traditional vending machines will have been removed from the high school.  Gone are Cheetos, Chocolate Chip Mini Pies and Pop-Tarts.  In their place are two new healthy vending machines containing items such as Power Up Mega Omega Trail Mix, GoGo Squeez Apple Mango Applesauce, and pistachio nuts.

In an e-mail interview, Mary Jo Gruber, CPA, CGMA and Chief Financial Officer of the School District of Clayton, explained that four vendors submitted bids for healthy snack vending machines.  The Board of Education approved the bid from P3 Nutrition for the period from September 15, 2014 through June 30, 2019.  The school district will receive a 20% commission on all snacks sold from the machines.

“The snack machine selections align with the new federal Smart Snack Guidelines…and the District Wellness Policy,” Gruber noted.  Starting this school year, all foods sold at school during the school day have to meet the USDA Smart Snack Standards as required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  The Snack Standards set nutritional guidelines for snack items.  (see sidebar)  They limit the amount of sodium (salt), fat, and sugar in the snacks.  Also, snacks must contain fewer than two hundred calories and zero grams of trans fat.

Susie Rubin, a licensed dietitian, gave her opinion of the Smart Snack standards: “I think that they actually are on the right track.”  She liked that the guidelines were flexible enough to allow for snacks like dried fruit and nuts.  She explained that even though nuts exceed the total fat limit, they are exempt from that standard because the fat in nuts is a healthy type of fat.

Unfortunately, even though the standards may be good, the snacks that the vendors put in the supposedly healthy vending machines do not always meet the standards.  For example, Rubin compared two chocolate bars: a Skinny Cow Heavenly Crisp Bar from the healthy vending machine, and a Kashi Cherry Dark Chocolate Granola Bar from the traditional machine.  Surprisingly, the Kashi Bar qualifies as healthy, while the Skinny Cow does not.  The Skinny Cow contains 45% total fat, which exceeds the 35% limit.

In addition, it appears that healthy eating may come at a price.  The average price of a snack from the healthy vending machine is $1.29, while the average price of a snack from the traditional machine is $1.03.  More specifically, a bag of Popchips Barbeque Potato from the traditional vending machine costs $1.25.  The same bag of chips purchased from the new healthy vending machine costs $1.75.  Fifty cents may not seem like a lot.  However, if a student buys a bag of Popchips every day during the school year from the new machine, the additional cost will total $89.50.  When asked about the price discrepancy, Gruber responded, “The request for proposal included potential pricing of items; however vendors did not provide [prices for] specific chips, granola bars, energy bars and [instead] included a range of pricing.”  She stated that she would contact the vendor to discuss the higher pricing.

The new vending machines also do not have the prices for each snack item posted.  You have to enter your selection into the machine to find out the price; then you can put in the money if you choose to buy that snack.  This makes comparing the prices of the snacks within the machine difficult.

Junior Kate O’Donnell wavered when asked her opinion of the snacks in the new vending machines: “I think some of them are actually pretty good… I miss the old ones.”  However, Senior Tymine Barnett’s feelings about the healthy vending machines were unequivocal.  “They don’t have nothing in there!” she exclaimed.