Vending machines in schools can be a controversial topic. A lot of misconceptions about them float around. While some concerns are valid, the problem may not be with the vending machine itself, but rather with the way the vending machine is being used. Here are reason why it can be positive to host a vending machine at a school, and how existing vending habits can be turned into good ones.
Positive reasons to host a vending machine at a school:
1) They are low cost. Kids don’t have a lot of money, and where children are underprivileged, every child has access to the same snacks to buy in the machine, priced affordably.
2) They can replace forgotten lunches. It’s awful when a child forgets a lunch and going home for the lunch hour is not an option (especially since often these days both parents spend the day at work). By having a snack or beverage machine around, a child with a few dollars can still get something to eat to last the day.
3) They keep kids around. A problem is when kids leave school grounds with the excuse that they’re going to the store to buy something. This can make supervision an issue, especially when some kids don’t return after the lunch break, or come back late. It also creates a trend and following, where large groups of kids will want to leave. Having a vending machine at the school can eliminate the excuse that they need to go to the store to buy snacks, since the snacks are available right in the school.
4) Vending machines are great for fundraising. A vending machine at the school can be used to fundraise, either for the school itself, for student activities, for supplementing hot lunch programs, or even for an external cause, such as a charity. This can also be a great way to get kids involved in their community and create a team effort to improve something.
Turning vending habits into positive ones:
Using healthy snacks. The main problem with vending machines in schools has been the unhealthy eating associated with them. However, this can easily be changed by simply conducting a meeting with school officials to decide what will and what will not appear in the machines for sale to students. Things like granola bars, trail mixes and juices can be sold instead of pop and chips only.
Keep the machine in a visible, supervised location. An unsafe habit in schools is when kids kick machines or try to tilt them when a snack gets stuck or they lose their coins in the reader. To avoid this, simply place the machine in a place where it can be viewed easily by school staff, and where kids will be more responsible with their behaviour around the machines. For example, placing the machine near the school office or staff room could eliminate this problem.
Using a power surge bar and a Canadian Standards Association approved vending machine. Electricity can be a danger to students, especially if they toy with the wires. In addition to keeping the machine in a location where it can be easily supervised by adults, be sure to go with a company that installs using a power surge bar and a machine approved by the Canadian Standards Association.
Going with a vending service company rather than handling machine matters on your own. For a school to handle the maintenance and stocking of a vending machine can be cumbersome and time consuming. After all, a school is not in the business of vending. For this reason, it’s best to leave it to the specialists.
Often these vending companies will install, maintain, service and stock the machines free of charge, and simply provide the school with a percentage of the earnings in exchange for providing the retail location for them to operate. When considering all the work and effort involved, this is a ‘deal to steal’ for the school, which can be better spending it’s time educating and caring for children.