Since 2010 with the Healthy Schools Act, Webster has converted its meals for healthy living. Now it is converting the vending machines for healthy choices.
The current two vending machines are being replaced with new vending machines provided by the vendor H.U.M.A.N. Healthy Vending. The new vending machines will have snacks such as Popchips, Pirates Booty, Cliff Bars and granola bars like Kashi or Nature Valley. The drink machines will remain in place, however, because of a five-year contract signed with Coca-Cola.
“People here are interested in better nutrition,” said Nurse Jo-Anne Nester. “They want a healthy lifestyle.”
Sophomore Allison O’Brien agreed.
“There aren’t very many healthy choices [in the cafeteria],” said O’Brien. “The majority is high in fat or high in calories, especially at the snack bar, which is all greasy food. I hope the vending machines come stocked with things like low-fat popcorn, Special-K bars, low-fat chips or trail mix.”
According to the Missouri Eat Smart Guidelines, foods that have more than 4 grams of fat per 100 calories or more than 1 gram of saturated fat per 100 calories are not allowed to be served in a Missouri school vending machine. In addition to these restrictions, zero grams of unsaturated or trans-fat must be present in anyone of the items served.
“The previous vendor didn’t let us pick and choose [the options],” said Nester. “They just had the normal items that you could buy from a Quik Trip. This new vendor has healthier options like you could buy from Whole Food.”
“It’s hard to get healthy food in schools,” said Student Council president, senior Dana Sell. “It takes a long time to prepare and it’s expensive.”
Student Council and the ECHO staff members were selected by Nester and Cliff Ice for taste-testing the vending school options. Wellness Committee members were also selected for taste-testing the new options.
“Over the years, [the food] hasn’t been too bad,” said senior class president Bryce Jackson. “It’s better than some other schools that I’ve been too. We don’t have the best healthy choices, but we don’t have the worst either. Our school is also very athletic, and so I don’t see an issue with obesity.”
“Personally, I don’t go to the vending machines,” said senior Student Council officer, Carly Farrah. “I want to save my money. If they’re replacing the food with healthier options like Nature Valley, then I might consider using the vending machines during the day. I would really enjoy the variety.”
In addition to housing healthier options, the vending machines themselves will be updated to match the 21st century. They will come equipped with technology to take credit cards and will not lose students paper dollars.
Unlike the old vending machines which had metal coils the food was previously placed on, the new vending machines will instead be placed on a conveyer belt, with infrared sensors that sense when a student pays.
Missouri has taken hits before on its high obesity rate. According to a 2011 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.3 percent of Missouri adults are obese. In fact, according to County Health Rankings, within St. Louis County, the obesity rate for adults is 29 percent and physical inactivity is 25 percent.
“I encourage people to try other healthy foods in the cafeteria,” said O’Brien. “Get involved in the athletics at school too.”