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Healthy Vending Machine Options in Woodbury County
Over the course of this last year Siouxland District Health has been able to work with three area businesses; Palmer Candy Company in Sioux City, St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, and CF Industries in Sergeant Bluff, to improve the quality of vending machine options in the vending machines at their respected work sites. Working by the NEMS-Vending standard (Nutrition Environment Measurement Survey) with it's 'Mix It Up' message, all three businesses were shooting for the total number of vending machine options to be at 30% healthy or better, this included snack and pop machines. Working with vendors, all were able to meet their goal and receive a site award. This link explains how foods are deemed healthy or unhealthy; this link does the same for beverages.
Trying to please the different vendors, employees, and the people trying to implement the new vending policy at one time was hard. Everyone had very reasonable questions about the new healthier vending choices and how it would affect them. The vendors were wondering if they would be able to sell the healthier products so that they wouldn’t lose money. The employees were wondering if their favorite vending machine snack was going to be replaced by something they didn’t like. And the HR and wellness people were trying to get everyone on the same page and make everyone happy which is a difficult thing to do.
Luckily we were able to work with some great people who were all open to change and very good at communicating problems or concerns and everyone was dedicated to making sure the goals set at the beginning were met. After the different companies committed to working the NEMS-V program, they were eligible for a mini-grant that allowed the employees to taste test different healthy products and give input on what they would be willing to buy if it were put in the vending machines. Some of the foods tried were baked chips, granola bars, and diet sodas.
From this point we were able to talk with different food and beverage venders and tried to use their knowledge of what they thought would sell. Diet sodas, granola bars, and baked chips have a history of selling so we tried to use those products as much as possible when replacing the unhealthy options.
Working with the different vendors we were able to make adjustments on the fly to ensure that they were putting in products that would sell.
All three businesses reached the 30% healthy option mark in their vending machines. Palmer Candy started out with 19% of the options being healthy and ended at 35% healthy options. CF Industries started at 12.3% healthy options and ended at 34.6%, and St. Luke’s started at 12% and ended at 34%. All three received an award recognizing their achievement from NEMS-V.
For the three businesses their goal now is to maintain the 30% level and continue to have dialogue with the vendors to ensure everyone is happy moving forward. This upcoming year SDHD will be working with Sioux City Foundry and Stream in Sergeant Bluff to help them improve and increase the availability of healthy vending options. SDHD will also continue to support other Woodbury County businesses who are interested in improving the quality of their vending machine options.