Vending machines are found in schools across the United States; 43 percent of elementary schools, 74 percent of middle schools and 98 percent of high schools have them, reports the National Association of School Nurses. However, most of them are filled with unhealthy snacks that include chips, candy and soda. With the rise in childhood obesity, many schools want to make changes regarding what snacks are available to students. Healthy vending machines are an option that many schools have tried out with success.
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When a school chooses to set up vending machines on campus, it benefits monetarily when students purchase snacks. For this reason, many schools worry that removing them would cause financial struggles since the profits have come to be relied on. Several companies have come forward with healthy alternatives to typical vending machine fare, including Fresh Healthy and Human Healthy Vending. According to Vendu-cation, these machines have been just as or more successful in test situations than traditional ones, meaning that schools are still able to profit from them.
Snack selection depends on what company a healthy vending machine is contracted with, but the selections include nutrient-dense snacks that support a child's health and learning. Typical offerings include granola and cereal bars, string cheese, yogurt, pudding, trail mix, nuts, baked chips, fruit cups and sliced vegetables. Those that sell beverages usually offer low-fat milk, water or 100 percent fruit juice. The results of a Gallup Youth Survey presented by USA Today reports that 67 percent of high school students purchase food from vending machines. Substituting healthy snacks means those children are not consuming as much fat, calories, salt or sugar.
Schools see financial benefits from placing healthy vending machines on campus, but these snacks offer benefits for each student who chooses them. Growing children need extra nutrients to support their development, and healthy snacks are an important part of a child's diet. The right snack will satisfy hunger and contribute to nutrient intake at the same time. Children who eat a snack in the morning and afternoon are better able to concentrate in the classroom, improving comprehension and retention of material. Most hungry children tend to eat what is there, so placing healthy snacks in the vending machines makes it likely that most students will choose one.
The School's Role
While placing healthy snacks in the hallways may promote more children to eat them, teachers are responsible for educating children on the importance of healthy snacking habits. Health and gym classes are good opportunities to discuss nutrition and fitness and how they both play roles in a healthy lifestyle, now and as children get older. A healthy vending machine is a good way to introduce the topic.