WASHINGTON -- National Public Radio recently explored the movement to mandate "healthy" vending on state property that could have unintended consequence on blind vending operators' bottom lines, since many of them operate in such facilities.
The segment on the May 28 Morning Edition, titled "Why Healthy Vending Machines Might Hurt the Blind" featured Kevan Worley, director of the National Association of Blind Merchants, and Joel Kimmons, a nutrition scientist who worked on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's vending machine recommendations. Also weighing in was Oregon state representative Alissa Keny-Guyer, who has proposed a bill that would require vending machines on state property to offer "better-for-you" fare.
Worley argued that restricting machine menus though such legislation would likely result in less use of vending machines on state property, as people go elsewhere to purchase the snacks and beverages they seek. And the reduction in profits would disproportionately affect blind vendors.
The Oregon Healthy Vending legislation has gone through an overhaul: Instead of mandating 100% healthful snacks, the bill now calls for the creation of a taskforce to bring stakeholders together.
And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been working together with blind vendors and other vending companies to find ways to add "healthier" and selections to machines without impacting the blind vendors' bottom line.
"Do vending machines contribute negatively to the overall diet?" asked CDC's Kimmons. "I think the question can be turned around, and you should ask, 'Can vending machines contribute positively to the overall diet?'"
Worley emphasized that a collaborative approach will lead to the best outcome for all parties involved in devising a solution. "You know, I understand, if we don't reduce health costs, that's going to be a huge economic impact. But I don't want to balance the health of the nation on the backs of blind Americans," he said. "We can develop ways to have our cake and eat it, too."
Listen to the NPR broadcast here