ADPH bringing healthier options to vending machines

Published 4:17 pm Friday, May 4, 2012

The Alabama Department of Public Health is working to create healthier options for those who are always on the run.

With the Alabama Healthy Vending Program, the ADPH is working with institutions across Alabama to provide healthier options in vending machines.

The program originally started with a two-year grant back in 2010 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Linda Jennings, a nutrition assistant administrator with ADPH. As for this year, the grant will be complete, but the CDC has decided to continue funding for the program.

“It was a grant that we got through CDC, and it is one part of a whole big approach to looking at obesity and reducing obesity rates,” Jennings said. “Certainly healthy vending options by themselves are not going to bring down our obesity rates, but it’s one part of a much bigger effort.”

The way the program operates is the ADPH partners with whatever vendor the company is already using to fill the vending machines. From that point, the company and vendor agree to exchange between 25 and 100 percent of what is already in the vending machine to meet healthier criteria.

The healthier criteria is labeled as 10-10-5, or 10 percent or less daily value of total fat, 10 percent or less daily value of total carbohydrate and five percent or more daily value of at least one of the five nutrients: fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium or iron.

Several institutions have already adopted this new concept of vending including L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital.

“(The hospital) started (the program) February 1,” Jennings said. “They had also partnered it with their start of Scale Back Alabama. It worked very well because the employees were looking at Scale Back and they knew that there were healthier choices.”

Jennings wanted to emphasize that healthier choices can also mean tasty choices as well.

“To tell you the truth, a lot of trail mixes meet the criteria,” Jennings said. “There is an exception, because if the food has nuts or seeds that are naturally higher in fat, as long as it meets everything else it’s OK. For instance, Peanut M&Ms will meet the criteria because of the peanut.”

Because working in a public arena may provide limited time and options, the ADPH knows that eating can sometimes come down to an ease of access, Jennings said. What people choose and eat can be based on what is in a vending machine.

Some places that have decided to switch over include the Baptist Hospitals in Montgomery and Prattville, Jackson Hospital, MAX Credit Union in Montgomery and a few health departments in the state. Some institutions that are looking into the idea include Troy University, Jacksonville State University and even employee vending statewide at Walmart stores.

“We’d really like see it to spread across the state of Alabama,” Jennings said. “It’s not going to tremendously decrease our obesity rates, but it was part of an overall effort that the Department of Public Health is trying to partner with and bring a healthier Alabama.”

For more information, visit adph.org/nutrition or contact Jennings at Linda.jennings.adph.state.al.us or 334-206-3825.