CHICAGO - The National Automatic Merchandising Association released a statement in response to the Center for Science in the Public Interest's recent press conference during which it released results of a school vending study that found 75% of beverages and 85% of snacks had poor nutritional quality. During the press conference, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced a bill that would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees public school lunch programs, more authority to tell public schools what they can sell in their cafeterias and vending machines.
NAMA's statement emphasizes that obesity is a serious problem that must be addressed and the best way to solve the problem is for vendors to partner with schools to teach children about healthy lifestyles, including how to make choices and the importance of exercise.
Students only purchase a small percentage of products from vending machines and eliminating vending machines from schools ignores the underlying causes of obesity, which can be addressed only by educating students about the elements of a healthy lifestyle and the importance of physical activity, NAMA stressed.
"We have always been committed to the health of our children, and have always supported each and every health and safety regulation designed to protect and promote healthy growth for our children," NAMA stated in its release.
NAMA also pointed out that the association strongly endorses President Bush's Health and Fitness Initiative, which urges Americans to be physically active every day for 30 minutes and to eat a nutritious, balanced diet and reject the use of tobacco and drugs.
"The vending industry delivers products to consumers just like convenience and grocery stores and shouldn't be treated any differently than other retailing outlets who supply the very same products that are found in our machines," NAMA said.
NAMA members are already working with individual school districts to tailor choices that work best for the schools and vendors alike and adding choices such as milk, juice and water, so that children who are educated about making healthy food choices will know how to make the choices that are best for them, the association stated. Also, NAMA has always supported laws that require vending machines to be inaccessible to students during the lunch hour, and has urged its members to follow those policies.
Many NAMA supplier members are leading the way to offer healthier versions of their products. Frito-Lay, for example, recently introduced its Smart Snack Ribbon Label designed to help consumers make informed snacking choices.
As evidence of NAMA's commitment to helping solve the problem, the board of directors recently released the following policy statement:
"NAMA endorses the Mission of the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition (ACFN) to advocate comprehensive, long-term strategies and constructive public policies for improving the health of all Americans, particularly youth, by promoting solutions focused on the critical balance between fitness and nutrition. The Board supports the ACFN's emphasis on "a healthy balance for life." Prohibitions or further restrictions of certain food or beverage products in schools, or elsewhere, or higher taxes on particular products are not consistent with this mission. The mission would be better served if public officials focused more resources and attention on better nutrition education, the need for a healthy, balanced diet and more physical activity.
NAMA strongly encourages its operator and food supplier members, in cooperation with school principals and others, to offer a wide, balanced variety of food and beverages. The Board of Directors applauds the actions of many of NAMA's supplier members in offering a wider selection of beverages, reduced calorie and reduced fat foods. The 2003 NAMA Board of Directors affirms the policy of the NAMA Board of Directors published in 1973 that the method by which food is delivered to the student or other customer is in no way related to what is served. Hence, NAMA , http://www.vending.org , strongly opposes bans or restrictions on products limited to vending machine sales of such products."