Canadian Vending

Features Innovation Trends
From the Editor: May/June 2010

The Answer Is Action


June 2, 2010
By Cam Wood


Topics

There’s word out of Toronto that the concession stands in the city will
now be subject to the same scrutiny as vending machines. By 2014, the
contracted facilities will be required to work under the same “healthy
products directive” that the vending industry has seen since around
2005 … meaning a stricter set of rules governing allowable products.

There’s word out of Toronto that the concession stands in the city will now be subject to the same scrutiny as vending machines. By 2014, the contracted facilities will be required to work under the same “healthy products directive” that the vending industry has seen since around 2005 … meaning a stricter set of rules governing allowable products.

Is this opportunity a levelling of the playing field, or yet another major injection of legislating for the stupid?
The limiting of snack options – be it beverages or food – remains one of the most contentious debates. The “experts” have the lobbying power and the ear of the decision-makers, reducing the impact and volume of the personal choice voice. When municipalities, school boards and similar institutions implement such directives, they do feel a sense of obligation. After all, our unhealthy lifestyles are often put up as the fault of the school system, recreation departments and the like. All this lends authority to these “health experts.”

However, as the Globe and Mail states: “Toronto’s ambitious plan to wean its citizens off soda, sports drinks and artificial juices raises questions about how much a municipal government can and should do to combat obesity and poor health. Public health officials are lauding the city’s proposal as trailblazing. It would be the strictest anti-pop regime in Ontario and one of the toughest in the country.

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“But opponents of the ban say it would only drive consumers to the corner store and could force beverage companies out of doing business with the city altogether.”

Across the country, even more arguments surface each year that little attention is being paid to the root cause: lifestyle choice. As recreation fees are hiked in annual municipal budgets, as organized athletics become the realm of the wealthy and playgrounds become off-limits to the neighbourhood children through turf wars of questionable characters, there remain few answers to combating our weight issues.

With all the excitement surrounding the Olympic gold medal wins by Canada’s hockey teams and the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring, I had the opportunity to chat with a former professional player about the nature of sport, recreation facilities and nutrition. One of his biggest beefs was not that of soft drink machines in arenas, slushies and candy bars. It was that Canadian kids no longer play unorganized hockey. Few participate in impromptu street hockey games anymore – they’ve found a coddled lifestyle behind the closed doors of home. Our kids are being coddled and kept indoors – mostly because video gaming has replaced activity.

Our municipalities seem to hear the loud voice of the activists slandering a product, and continually turn a blind eye to building a healthy community through participation and recreation.

Perhaps a provocative approach might be for the vending industry to turn the tables. Maybe a good campaign would be to promote random activity. Encourage action instead of legislation.

But then again, as an industry, we might have to find a way to wedge our politicians out of their chairs in the council chambers.


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