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Vol. LXII, No. 19
September 17, 2010

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Vending Machines To Offer Healthy Choices

Dr. Michael Donovan makes a selection from one of the new vending machines offering healthy choices.
Dr. Michael Donovan makes a selection from one of the new vending machines offering healthy choices.

It’s late in the afternoon and you’re feeling the blahs, so you go to the vending machine to get—a candy bar and a soda? As an NIH employee, you know there are better things you could eat, but it’s tough to find them in the middle of the afternoon after the cafeterias and convenience stores close. That is, until now.

Most people wouldn’t naturally associate health food with vending machines, but a 90-day pilot program organized through the Division of Amenities and Transportation Services, ORS, is hoping to change that. Five pairs of drink and snack machines are now offering new, healthier choices to employees and visitors craving something salty or sweet, but with fewer calories and careful attention paid to sugar and fat content.

The five pairs of machines are located in some of the more high-traffic areas around campus— Bldg. 31A near the credit union, Bldg. 31C near the Fitness Center, near the second-floor cafeteria in the Clinical Center, the first floor of the Natcher Conference Center and the sixth-floor break room in 2 Democracy. These snack machines offer pretzels, nuts, granola bars, baked chips, dried fruit and other smart snacks; the drink machines contain diet sodas and teas, water and sports drinks.

The pilot program is a joint effort between DATS, Canteen Vending and the NIH Health and Wellness Council. Dr. Michael Donovan, a member of the DATS team, said, “This healthy vending pilot is really part of a broader movement to roll out a number of wellness initiatives to the NIH community. Offering healthier food options and additional fitness activities both help contribute to a healthier campus.”

There are currently more than 300 vending machines located in space owned or leased by NIH. The proceeds from the machines, as with the convenience stores, benefit the Maryland Business Enterprise Program for the Blind.

The pilot program runs through the month of October. DATS and MBEPB will be measuring its success by comparing sales from the machines during the pilot to sales during the same time last year. This analysis will help them make adjustments and inform future expansion of the program.—

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