Head of school rids vending machines of sodas, unhealthy snacks to make room for ‘brain food’

(Photo used by permission of Creative Commons)
Unlike this vending machine stocked with candy bars and chips, the vending machines in the gym’s lobby will no longer sell unhealthy snacks.

During a typical break period, the gym’s lobby is packed with middle schoolers waiting in line to buy a snack or soft drink from one of the two vending machines. But when school resumes on Jan. 3, these students may be in for a surprise.

Head of school Lee Thomsen has decided to purge the drink machine of sodas and provide alternatives to the more unhealthy snacks.

Thomsen said that many snacks will remain, but not all.

“We’ll offer healthier options – nuts, granola bars, baked chips instead of fried,” Thomsen said. “The drink machine will have water, juices, flavored waters.”

Thomsen said the primary reason for this was his concern – and the school’s responsibility – for students’ health.

“As I looked at our vending machines, I saw a lot of items filled with sugar – candy, sugary sodas, some loaded with caffeine like Mountain Dew,” he said.

Thomsen said he began observing who was buying what after a staff member brought the issue to his attention. He then discussed the matter with several teachers, the Parents’ Association and the three division heads.

But Thomsen said the last straw was watching a bake sale.

“The death knell sounded when I saw a middle-school student standing in the bake sale line eating a box of Mike and Ikes and drinking a Mountain Dew,” he said. “At that point I thought, ‘This is crazy!’”

Thomsen said he didn’t talk to any students about the decision, although he imagines some will be annoyed. He noted that he has not banned candy and sodas from the campus;  students may bring them in their lunches.

“I just don’t think as a school we should be offering the opposite of ‘brain food,’” Thomsen said.

While there may be some controversy over Thomsen’s decision, several students agree that there have been problems with the school’s previous two snack machines.

(Photo used by permission of Creative Commons)
When a Human vending machine was stationed in the gym lobby, it offered healthier snack options.

“The last vending machine, ‘The Human,’  was supposed to be a healthy machine,” junior Nico Burns said. “I preferred the food in that machine, but the machine itself (had problems dispensing food), so I was glad for the change.”

But, according to junior Smita Sikaria, the replacement machine wasn’t perfect either.

“When we switched from ‘The Human’ to the new snack machine, we got rid of all the healthy options and replaced them with candy and chips,” Sikaria said. “I liked it at first, but now I feel like we should be promoting healthy eating.”

And sixth-grader Mitchell Scott agrees.

“Eating junk food and drinking sodas were the only options (with the new) snack machine,” Scott said. “Which means that if you were to have no lunch, you could buy only junk food.”

Sikaria, however, doesn’t support the school’s verdict on soda.

“I think they should leave a couple of soda options in the vending machine,” she said. “Sometimes I buy one when I need a little energy boost.”

When asked if the students can have input on any future vending machine changes, Thomsen said  “Absolutely!

“The vending company will begin by stocking the machines with what typically goes in machines that are trying to steer away from candy and sugar, and then we can go from there.”

By Garrett Shonkwiler

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