Canadian Vending

Features Payment Technology
From the Editor: November 2007

P.E.I. Promise

March 6, 2008
By Cam Wood


News of a Prince Edward Island high school vending program brings some hope, and enlightenment, to
the debate surrounding “junk food” in educational institutions.

News of a Prince Edward Island high school vending program brings some hope, and enlightenment, to
the debate surrounding “junk food” in educational institutions.

While the program itself isn’t going to preserve school vending programs across the nation, it does show that by involving the consumer – and giving credit to these young adults for being able to make their own decisions – circumstances can develop into a winning solution.

Too often our governments enact legislation to “protect” us from ourselves. Vending laws in schools is one such flawed manoeuvre. The rules and regulations surrounding what can be stocked in vending machines, as we have seen time and time again, are knee-jerk reactions designed to cover the governments’ own shortcomings in funding and direction.


By attacking something physical – the vending machine – they can pretend to be doing something effective.
It’s a political spin: “Never mind that you have to fundraise for textbooks, just feel better knowing your children won’t be eating ding-dongs all day.” Maybe not an exact quote, but most of the time we barely comprehend their dogma.

Despite the past three years of trying to legislate nutritional standards in schools, most provinces have failed the grade, at least according to an October report card from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest.

True enough, the CSPI can be a bit off the wall at times – but in the recent analysis they have pointed out why most provincial school systems do not pass the test. According to the national co-ordinator, Bill Jeffery, the legislation often focuses only on vending machines and school food programs served by community groups and not the in-house foodservice operations.

The CSPI go as far as to say such legislative actions actually do more harm than good by having conflicting standards within the schools.

In turn, they didn’t give a decent grade to anyone. Well, Alberta did score a B based on the early stages of its new nutritional guidelines, but that was awarded with reservation. The Alberta guidelines did allow for community and industry commentary, but it is not known how much of that input was received and included in the final draft.

Either way, on the surface it also appears as yet another form of “we know what’s good for you” policy.
What’s good about the development in P.E.I. is that these students were allowed the opportunity to craft their own solution. And they proved smarter than most who hold political office.

The students identified their own needs, not what they were told they needed, and installed a machine they call the Lean Machine. The student committee responsible for the entire program developed a marketing plan and designed a healthier menu for the cafeteria as well.

We see it as a promise of a positive future for the relationship vending can have with the school system. But mostly because we’re pretty sure those who enact laws to target refrigerated coin-operated boxes while neglecting all nutritional factors at play, are not smarter than a Canadian fifth grader.

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