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Vending machine

vending machine in hall at Gray Academy


by Shaked Karabelnicoff, April 5, 2012

I am a grade seven student at the Gray Academy of Jewish Education who noticed that there was a vending machine filled with really unhealthy foods at the Asper Campus. This machine currently contains high calorie and sugar filled foods such as chocolate bars, chips, candy bars etc. It is located in front of the Gray Academy and the library. It bothered me a lot to see that children like me were constantly consuming such unhealthy things!

I decided I wanted to change this, take a stand and make a difference. I realized this was a long overdue cause and now I wanted to stop it. I asked some people if they would be willing to sign a petition to replace the vending machine foods. I got a very positive reaction from the survey.

This positive reaction gave me the extra support and motivation I needed to start my project. I created a petition to replace the snacks in the vending machine at the Asper Campus with healthier options. I also enlisted the help of my friends and classmates and together we started making change, one day at a time. We gathered signatures during lunch, spares and breaks. After a couple of hardcore signature gathering weeks, I made a final decision to hand in the petition.

On March 12 the petition, made up of sixteen pages containing 153 signatures, was given to Curtis Martin, facilities director at the Asper Campus. The petition stated:

 "From children to adults many people who attend the Rady JCC Campus and Gray Academy of Jewish education use the vending machine. This vending machine contains extremely unhealthy sugar and calorie filled foods. For example: chocolate bars, chips, candies etc. These foods are inevitably addicting. If the vending machine was gone people would not be so tempted. However, the owner of the vending machine makes a lot of money from the vending machine and we are not against that. We are suggesting replacing the vending machine with healthier options such as whole wheat chips, flax/corn chips, miniature cereal boxes, packaged dry fruits etc. We, the undersigned, are concerned Rady JCC and Gray Academy attendees, who urge the campus to act now to replace the vending machine filled with unhealthy snacks to healthy snacks."

Once the petition was handed in, I received an email from the maintenance manager at the Asper Campus, Israel Binnun, which said:

"We have been adding new healthier items to the vending machine in the past few months. Granola bars, cereal bars, baked chips, and dried fruit just to name a few. We are monitoring the sales of all our items very closely and will keep adding new items as they become available. We have to keep the vending machine Kosher and nut free. We believe that we have the responsibility to offer healthy snacks and other snacks that our customers want to buy. We take the balanced approach of offering choices. We should be thankful for living in a culture that promotes freedom of choices and personal responsibility. I will be happy to discuss with you how we can improve our service to benefit all of our customers. At the same time if you know of other items that we can put in the machine that are nut free, Kosher, healthy, and don’t need refrigeration, please let me know."

Although this email has a point, it is not addressing the point we are trying to make. Temptation is a very hard thing to fight. It is hard for people of all ages. How can we expect a child to fight temptation when responsible adults all around them cannot do this? Thoe who signed the petition are for personal responsibility and choices but when it comes to a person’s health more specifically that of a child, I don't think this is an appropriate way to teach children a lesson on choices.

Shortly after I received this email I went to get a signed photocopy of the petition. Coincidentally when I was going to the Asper Campus office to get this I came face to face with Curtis Martin! Luckily I knew enough about my cause to present my case and follow through with my supporting points.

Mr. Martin told me I could have a seat in his office and we could discuss the issue. We had an interesting meeting; he told me if I could find items that are kosher, nut free, healthy and fit inside the vending machine they would consider putting them inside the machine.

We also talked about changing the location of the vending machine, if the items cannot be replaced the vending machine should be in a different location. The vending machine is currently located in the main hall of the Asper Campus (main street) exactly in front of the school stairs and library. Children are also more tempted to buy from this machine since they walk by the machine so frequently. If the machine was not in this location children would not see the snacks and would not be so tempted. In the meeting Mr. Martin requested that I send him a very broad list of items in general that I would like to see go into the vending machine.

Following our meeting Mr. Curtis Martin and I have been exchanging emails addressing the issue of the vending machine. I recently sent him a non-detailed list of healthier options that could be placed in the machine. In reply he sent me an email saying:

"Whereas what you have provided is a general list of "categories", I assure you both Israel and I have had this list for a while and try to fill it whenever we can. What we are looking for is a specific product you would like to see in the machine which meets the limitations we are forced to deal with here at the Campus. For example: Kellogg’s Special K Dark Chocolate Granola bars - Costco.

"The purpose of this exercise is for you to see that under the constraints of: Kosher, nut-free, non-perishable, vendible (has to fit in the machine) and readily available, we are limited to options available. The other constraint might be cost, but that is less of a concern. For example, we might find the perfect, healthy vending option, but may have to vend it at $3.50 due to its cost to us. The best way to do this is to go to Costco or the Wholesale, or even Wal-Mart and have a look at the products on the shelves. If you find one that has a Heksher, contains no nuts and will fit in the machine, let us know what that specific product is and we will gladly add it to the vending roster. What the Campus will not sell is either gum or kernels of popcorn that must be microwaved. The cleaners are already overworked with the amount of gum under tables and seats and many people find the smell of microwave popcorn unwelcome as well as the additional mess it creates.

"We have explored the possibility of purchasing bulk items, such as the wasabi peas or trail mix and then individually packaging them here at Campus, however there are too many hurdles when it comes to the City of Winnipeg Health department to do that.

I assure you that we find this whole exercise as frustrating as you must by now, but don’t give up."

This is currently where things stand. Although, it should be noted, that this cause is not a simple exercise.

 I know all the people who are supporting this petition and cause take their health and this issue very seriously. They are anxious to see change happening, soon.

Updates will be given as they occur.

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