Where’d You Go, Vending Machine?

Around a month ago, EHHS administration removed the H.U.M.A.N vending machines, known as the “healthy” vending machines, from the school entrance and outside the cafeteria, causing annoyance among the student body. The administration then removed the “unhealthy” vending machine from the back room of the main office and placed it in the school entrance. The state of Connecticut joined with the Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB) did not approve of the healthy H.U.M.A.N vending machines. Yet the state approved the vending machine behind the main office that contains “unhealthy” snacks.

The BESB provides, “resources, comprehensive low vision tests, specialized education services, life skills training, case management, and vocational services to individuals of all ages who are legally blind and to children who are visually impaired.” So what do they have to do with the removal of our precious vending machines? Well, the BESB and the Connecticut General Assembly serve to determine if state policy should be influenced by BESB’s vending machine handling of the revenue generated by their vending machines. Under this legislation-, our H.U.M.A.N. vending machines have been removed because the state gave BESB the right of, “first refusal to operate vending facilities and vending machines in all state and municipal buildings” (C.G.S Sec. 10-303); this includes our public school. As Mr. DeNuzzo puts it in simple terms, “The BESB said that the vending machines in your school or any municipal building for that matter, have to be approved by a certain vendor. The healthy vending machine company was not an approved vendor.” I feel as though the H.U.M.A.N. vending machine should be approved by the state due to their healthy and delicious snacks.

One may wonder, why are the human vending machines not approved by the state? These vending machines are owned by the company “Healthy YOU” which is a distribution company dedicated to distributing healthy snacks, drinks, and food. These vending machines according to Healthy You are intelligent, innovative and its primary goal is to create happy and healthy customers. But these innovative, top of the line vending machines were beaten by another that contains multiple bags of Doritos and water for $1.75. This is because the BESB and State, according to Mr. DeNuzzo, is cooperating with, “The Coca-Cola Corporation, they have a contract with the state to do these types of approvals.” The BESB states in their legislation that they have a contract with the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of New England that gives the company exclusive rights to supply food and beverage vending machines in buildings where the BESB operates. One may be inclined to believe that the state does not have our best interest at heart.

Rightfully so, students at EHHS and myself have found the removal of the vending machines an annoyance. Katherine Garcia, a frequent user of the vending machines said, “I’m annoyed about it because there is only 1 vending machine now, when there use to be three, and it's in one place, so there is always a lot of people.” The removal of vending machines has also cut down our snack variety and somehow has made water more expensive: “I use to buy a water bottle for $1 at the healthy vending machines, the unhealthy ones are $1.75. And the other one had more options like string cheese, goldfish, natural juices, and muffins.” Alina Tran, a junior at EHHS, also agrees with Katherine by saying, “I would use them mostly when I was staying after for band, I mostly bought snacks because the price for the water went up like 75¢ and $1.75 for a water bottle was not my cup of tea.” This majorly affects students who stay after school for extracurriculars, extra help, and for those who participate in sports. How will students-athletes’ now buy healthy snacks before and after games?

The removal has also impacted students’ health. Many students only ate throughout the school day from the vending machines but now many students like Alina do not have that option: “I used to bring money to buy food whenever I was feeling hungry, but now there’s only food available in one place so I just don't eat in school anymore.”

However, teachers in the building don't feel as the vending machine has had a great impact on students. Mr. Tolla, a psychology teacher at EHHS, has not paid much attention to their removal, even though students would leave his class to buy a snack or water from the vending machines on a daily basis. Tolla said, “Having healthy snacks here is only masking the problem. Through the course of the day, the kids are going to eat unhealthy at home. I don't think the vending machines are going to change habits of students. It is ridiculous we even try to promote that here because it is not going to be a long term solution to the problematic diets of some kids. We need education: to educate kids and show them the effects of these things instead of just swapping these machines out.”

The administration should address this issue because rumors are spreading like wildfire about the whereabouts of the vending machines and the reason they were removed. The most popular rumor is that the vending machines produce too much money compared to the cafeteria, so the school cut out the competition. Students and teachers should not fret though, water bottles, granola bars, and many other snacks will soon be available at the school store opening soon. At the time this article is being written the school moved the unhealthy vending machines from the back room to the school entrance due to student crowding.