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    Archive for the ‘vending machines’ Category

    Rise of the Healthwashed Vending Machines

    I’ve seen a glimpse of the future — and it frightens me. Behold “H.U.M.A.N healthy vending”machines. You know, H.U.M.A.N as in “Helping Unite Man And Nutrition”?

    The company, which has received praise from the likes of Forbes, bills itself as “a healthy vending company whose mission is to eradicate childhood obesity through education and healthy eating”.

    Their commitment? “To increase access to healthy and fresh vending snacks, foods, and drinks”. They also donate ten percent of their proceeds to unnamed charities that “fight obesity and malnutrition”.

    Progressive and paradigm-shifting? Far from it. This is tried-and-true healthwashing with a sprinkle of social conscience-washing.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    According to a 2007 study published in Health Economics, the percentage of high schools in the United States offering physical education on a daily basis declined from 41.6 percent in 1991 to 28.4 percent in 2003.

    In that same time period — in which massive budget cuts caused many school districts to succumb to dire economic conditions — the number of vending machines in high schools increased by almost 100 percent.

    You don’t need an ‘A’ in algebra to figure out that is a worrisome equation.

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    Leaving Out Vital Information

    Vending and food service company Next Generation has introduced Vitalities, a sticker-based initiative which “provides customers the ability to make selection based on healthy snack and beverage alternatives, while still having the flexibility to select name brand product options.”

    In essence, products that meet certain health criteria — created with the help of a Registered Dietitian — get a sticker next to their item code.

    On the food side, the following categories are offered: lower in fat, lower in sugar, lower in carbs, and “higher energy.”

    Why are they leaving out the most important concept– CALORIE information?

    Consider the following. To qualify as “low in sugar”, a product must meet one of the following criteria:

    * Sugar Free
    * No Sugar Added
    * Contains less than 4 grams of sugar

    These divisions are very helpful for snack companies because they don’t evaluate their products from a whole nutrition profile.

    Per the above mentioned standards, something like Sugar-Free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would receive a “low in sugar” sticker (and therefore seem like a healthy choice) despite offering 6 grams of saturated fat (30% of a day’s worth) in one 180-calorie serving.

    Similarly, a bag of Skittles can receive a healthy-sounding “low-fat sticker”, all while offering 250 calories and 12 teaspoons of sugar!

    I am also perplexed by the “lower in carbs” sticker. Unless someone has diabetes, there is no reason to believe that low carb figures by default indicate a healthier choice.

    The beverage stickers are slightly better, as they are divided into these four categories: lower in fat, lower in calories (yay!), lower in caffeine, and higher in nutrients.

    My concern here is the “lower in fat” label, which makes no mention of calories in its criteria:

    * Less than 2.5 grams of fat per 8 ounce portion
    * Skim and 1% milk
    * Flavored waters
    * Juices
    * Energy drinks

    Notice that soda can not qualify for this sticker. Fine and dandy, but sweetened flavored waters (often containing just as much sugar and as many calories as soda) can.

    This initiative is a start, but I would much prefer vending machines post calorie information on items.

    After all, unless people have those figures memorized, they are unable to see them until they have already made their purchase.

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    In The News: Do Soft Drink Bans At Schools Work?

    Today’s New York Times features a study published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, which The Times briefly summarizes as demonstrating that “soft drink consumption of children at schools where it was sold and children at schools where it was not… did not [show] a big difference.”

    In fact, approximately “4 percent fewer children from the no-soda schools said they did not drink it.”

    So is this it? Has legislation to ban soft drinks from schools failed?

    Not quite.

    I find it odd that this study only focused on elementary school children.

    After all, the “soda problem” mostly revolves around teenagers, many of whom get an average of 15 percent of their daily calories from soft drinks.

    I think this same study conducted in middle and high schools would very likely show more positive numbers.

    Forget sodas for a minute and just answer this.

    Who is more likely to make a pit stop — and have loose change to use — at a hallway vending machine? A first grader walking back from art class with his teacher in single file or a 10th grader with two minutes to spare on his way to geometry class?

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    A 2004 study by the National Automatic Merchandising Association concluded that Americans spent approximately $ 20 billion purchasing food and beverages from vending machines in the past year.

    What’s especially disturbing is that labor organization research determined that as many as 20% of all employees’ lunches in the United States come from vending machines!

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    Numbers Game: Pick Your Poison

    A 2004 study by the National Automatic Merchandising Association concluded that Americans spent approximately $ ________________ purchasing food and beverages from vending machines in the past year.

    a) 10 million
    b) 20 billion
    c) 45 billion
    d) 90 million

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer!

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