- Canteen Vending Services has announced a program called "Balanced Choices" to give clients a new range of options for tailoring menus toward healthy lifestyle maintenance. Unveiled in the first week in July, the program has received extensive press coverage.
The National Automatic Merchandising Association launched its "healthy lifestyle" public education campaign the following week. Announced at the NAMA Spring Expo (see VT, April), the broad-spectrum effort is being developed and managed by Global Communicators, a professional media firm based in Washington, DC. It will be funded by campaign-specific donations from all segments of the vending industry.
Canteen Vending's "Balanced Choices" offers the company's accounts a vending menu that can consist entirely of items considered healthier alternatives to mainstream snacks, foods and beverages. The complete package can include a computer-controlled information center where vending customers can find nutrition data on each product offered in the machines.
Mike Kiser, chief executive officer of the Compass Group's vending service division, explained that clients may choose to combine "Balanced Choices" with more traditional vending fare. If they elect the program in its entirety, their snack venders will be stocked only with items such as granola bars, dried fruits and nuts, pretzels and low-fat, low-sodium meat snacks, chips and popcorn, and energy bars.
The NAMA lifestyle education campaign will emphasize that making appropriate food and beverage choices is only a part of establishing a lifestyle that will maintain healthy weight and cardiovascular fitness. The other part, of course, is engaging in enough physical activity to balance caloric intake with energy expenditure.
"As obesity rates continue to escalate, all too often parents, legislators, school systems and the media mistakenly look to our industry as the culprit behind this serious problem.
"We know that vending has little to do with rising obesity rates, and that more education about healthy diets and the importance of physical activity are the keys to effectively solving the problem," Geerdes emphasized. "This is why we are launching this national campaign. Through the campaign, we want everyone from parents and school officials to legislators and the media to understand that we want to partner with them as together we work to solve this complex problem."
Compass Group North America's Kiser predicted that decision-makers for educational institutions and healthcare facilities will be the most excited about the "Balanced Choices" option. However, the program potentially has much more extensive appeal, he added. "As the price tag for obesity in U.S. companies reaches $12 billion annually, businesses are seeking to reduce costs by persuading employees to improve their health through company-endorsed nutrition and exercise programs. This is one way we can help."
"Balanced Choices" is the latest in a series of Canteen innovations designed to set itself apart from its competitors and to meet its customers' changing needs. Canteen was the first national vending company to offer branded restaurant foods, and now is the first to offer "100% better-for-you options."
NAMA's "Healthy Lifestyle" educational campaign will be directed primarily at parents, school administrators and school board members, elected officials at the federal and state levels, and the media. It will deliver messages about the importance of balancing calories consumed with calories burned, and thus the importance of daily physical activity. It also will emphasize the importance of teaching young people about the elements of a healthy, balanced diet.
PART OF THE SOLUTION
The objective is to identify the vending industry as an important source of food and beverages that offers a balanced variety of selections, that always has striven to work in partnership with its clients to help attain their goals, and that can be a valuable tool for teaching young people to make smart choices.
Canteen Vending's "Balanced Choices" menus extend across product categories. The cold drink load plan includes diet soft drinks including the caffeine-free line extensions, other sugar-free beverages, 100% juices and small-package waters. Refrigerated food venders are stocked with salads, a variety of low-carbohydrate products, fresh whole and sliced fruit, yogurt, and appropriate soups and sandwiches. Canteen seeks out low-carbohydrate, low-fat, sugar- and caffeine-free items, hydrating beverages, and soy products.
NAMA's "Healthy Lifestyle" campaign also is the latest in a series of initiatives by the association to help its members deal with diet, nutrition and health issues. NAMA recently developed "Burn It Off!" static-cling transparencies for its members to place on their machines, reminding patrons of the need for exercise. Unveiled last year was NAMA's Healthy Balance for Life brochure, subtitled "Facts About Vending, Healthy Eating and Fitness," which identifies dietary variety, moderation and balance as the fundamentals of a healthy diet. The association also added registered dietitian Ruth Lahmayer as a Knowledge Source Partner to help members better understand food and beverage-related health issues.
In fact, NAMA's proactivity dates back three decades. The vending industry was an early target for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which accused vending machines of selling "junk food" in the early 1970s. NAMA retained the services of nutrition expert Dr. Fergus M. Clydesdale to educate operators on dietary issues. The topic has been a recurrent feature of the association's educational programs.
Geerdes reported that the research phase of the new project is well under way, and plans are in train for the kick-off of the campaign.
"The truth is that education can play an important role in actually solving the problem, because it will help children and adults understand the importance of physical activity and the elements of a healthy diet," he explained. "Vending machines in school offering a balanced variety of food and beverages will be an important tool in that campaign, because they can teach young people to make good choices, leading to a balanced diet and a lifetime of good health."Information on NAMA activities and services can be had from the association at 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, IL 60606-3102, tel. (312) 346-0370, fax (312) 704-4140, or online at vending.org.