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The vend is near – but that's OK

28 October 2004 by
The vend is near – but that's OK

There's something inhuman about vending machines. There's no personal interaction, the transaction is all a bit matter-of-fact, and the only reassuring thing is the thud of a can as it falls to the bottom of the dispenser - then, at least, you know your money hasn't been rejected.

Of course, it's not for these reasons that vending machines have been targeted by action groups in the fight against obesity among schoolchildren. It was because many of them were stocked with fizzy drinks that were stuffed full of sugar and recognised as one of the major culprits of childhood obesity.

But while parents and MPs called for vending machines to be banned in British schools - an action already taken in France, which will expel them from 1 September 2005 - head teachers have pleaded with the Government not to act to cut off a valuable revenue stream.

What's good news now is that the results of a recent trial conducted in 12 schools in Hertfordshire, Wales, Devon and Cumbria found that, when stocked with healthy products, vending machines can still deliver a much-needed revenue stream for schools and aid the battle against food-related diseases.

It also seems that the kids liked the milk-based products, fruit juices, and still and flavoured waters - 70,000 healthy drinks were sold in the schools in the six-month test period.

The Automatic Vending Association has long argued that vending machines are nothing to be wary of - they are just a delivery channel. It's what they contain that matters.

So, if schools and contract caterers can get the offering right, such machines present a win-win situation for children and schools. Children retain their independence in selecting freely from the machines, and schools, already starved of finance, keep a valuable source of income while fulfilling their mandate of responsible care.

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