June 27th 2013 USDA Press Release

Junk food and sugary drinks will be pulled from U.S. schools next year as part of a nutritional overhaul aimed at improving child health and tackling obesity.

The “Smart Snacks in School” standards released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture today remove such options as full-fat chocolate cookies, fruit snacks and candy bars offered at lunch and in vending machines, replacing them with healthier foods such as peanuts, light popcorn and fruit cups. Elementary and middle school children can drink water, milk and juice, while high school students also will be offered beverages with 60 calories or fewer in a 12-ounce serving.

School Vending Machines Get a Makeover: Focus on Healthier Choices

In many places, the days of sugary sodas and candy bars dominating school vending machines are over. A shift towards healthier options has been underway for some time, driven by:

Government Regulations: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) introduced the “Smart Snacks in Schools” program in 2010. This program sets guidelines for what food and drinks can be sold outside of school meals, including in vending machines. These guidelines prioritize healthier options like water, lower-fat yogurt, and whole-grain snacks.

  • Health Concerns: Childhood obesity is a growing concern, and schools are taking steps to promote healthier habits among students. Vending machines stocked with sugary drinks and processed snacks can counteract efforts to promote good nutrition.
  • Parental Pressure: Many parents advocate for healthier options in schools, and school boards are responding to their concerns.

What’s in a Healthy Vending Machine?

The exact contents will vary, but you can expect to find:

  • Water: This is the healthiest and most hydrating drink option. Flavored water with minimal added sugar is also becoming popular.
  • Lower-fat dairy products: Individual yogurt containers, string cheese, or low-fat milk can provide protein and calcium.
  • Whole-grain snacks: Whole-grain crackers, granola bars, or trail mix offer complex carbohydrates and fiber for sustained energy.
  • Fresh fruit: Individually wrapped or pre-cut fruit options like apples, oranges, or grapes provide vitamins and natural sweetness.

Benefits of a Healthier Vending Machine Approach

  • Improved Student Health: By making healthier choices readily available, schools can encourage students to develop better eating habits.
  • Increased Student Focus: Sugary drinks and processed snacks can lead to energy crashes and difficulty concentrating. Healthier options can help students stay focused throughout the day.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Healthy vending machines send a message that the school prioritizes student health and well-being.

The Future of School Vending

The trend towards healthier vending machines in schools is likely to continue. As new research emerges on the connection between diet and student performance, we can expect even stricter regulations and a wider variety of healthy options available.