I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that no one screamed “Stop the presses!” over this report. The Associated Press recently looked into school vending machine sales after the 2010 enactment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and – surprise, surprise – students are using the machines far less now that they have to be stocked with healthy snacks and drinks. However, in what is an interesting twist, the drop in vending machine sales has actually boosted sales of healthy snacks in the cafeteria.
Ever since the schools that receive federal food subsidies have started following legislation that requires vending machines only sell healthy snacks, fruits juices and water, “profits that schools make from vending machine snack sales have gone down by 50 percent,” writes reporter Peg Quann. Those numbers could seem bad for a school’s bottom line, but Quann found that at many schools, students were instead choosing to buy more a la carte options from the cafeteria. In fact, despite the vending machine drop, at least one school administrator in Pennsylvania has called the change a victory for everyone.
“Our vending revenue has gone down, but food services is breaking even,” said Chris Berdnik, business manager for the Centennial School District. Though vending machine income in his district has dropped over $40,000 since 2010, a la carte sales are up over $100,000 – foods that have to be just as healthy as those in the neglected vending machines, again, thanks to federal regulations. “The kids won. They're really eating fresh food and it's a benefit to our program,” Berdnik stated.
Another interesting note from the AP article, however, is that public schools – like most every government organization – aren’t above finding loopholes in the system. Some schools wait until the final bell rings to “unlock vending machines that are stocked with candy and regular potato chips since the federal regulations no longer apply then,” Quann wrote. Actually, skirting the system may be one of the most valuable lessons students learn all year.