Canadian Vending

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Uncover Candy

Some B.C. students launch an underground candy business.


October 29, 2008
By James Keller

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BURNABY, B.C. – With the vending machines at Burnaby’s Moscrop Secondary School now flush with healthy snacks like dried apple chips and bran cereal, students looking for a sugar fix face a half-hour trek to the nearest convenience store.

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BURNABY, B.C. – With the
vending machines at Burnaby’s Moscrop Secondary School now flush with
healthy snacks like dried apple chips and bran cereal, students looking
for a sugar fix face a half-hour trek to the nearest convenience store.

Or they can just find Goggles, WeeMan or The Fern, the noms de guerre of three Grade 11 students who are making a healthy profit off British Columbia’s new ban on junk food in schools.
“We were just chilling, making fun of how the school banned candy, and we were like, ‘You know, we could actually make some money off this,” says The Fern, also known as 16-year-old Frank Somerford.
“The apple chips taste like cardboard and the All-Bran is just dry,” adds Mark (Goggles) Stoklosa, also 16 and sporting a silver-coloured dollar-sign medallion dangling from his neck.
Somerford, Stoklosa and 15-year-old Scott (WeeMan) Simpson headed to a big-box grocery store last week to load up on candy and chocolate bars, and started selling the contraband snacks from their lockers. When word reached school staff and they were booted from school property, they just set up shop across the street.
The teens have business cards using the company name Original Fresh and use Facebook to advertise their prices, which close to the prices students would pay elsewhere.
They even have a delivery service, so students can send a text message and have candy dropped off at their classrooms at no charge.
Business has been brisk: sales for the first week topped $175, and they’re only getting busier.
“It’s like that desert, you know, the desert in the movies with that one gas station? We’re that one gas station,” says Somerford.
Junk food and sugar-filled soft drinks were banned from vending machines and stores in all of B.C.’s schools at the start of the year.
But those same guidelines – which also include minimum targets for physical activity – have created a thriving business for Original Fresh and other junior entrepreneurs like them, a contradiction that isn’t lost on the chairwoman of the Burnaby Board of Education.
Kathy Corrigan says the underground candy trade should prompt the provincial government to rethink its outright ban on junk food.
“We all agree that the aim of having more healthy students, students eating better, is worthwhile and important,” says Corrigan, who suspects students at other schools are also finding creative ways around the ban.
“It’s a question of how you get there. Our approach would have been more to educate, to find consensus and that probably would take longer. I don’t think that any ban works if people don’t believe in it.”
Another concern is cost, she says.
“We have in British Columbia the highest child poverty rates in the country,” says Corrigan.
“We’re hearing that these healthy foods are expensive and it’s difficult to abide by the guidelines because junk food is cheaper. If we agree that students should have access to healthy foods, then we need to do something about the fact that there’s lots of people that can’t afford it.”
The province’s education minister, Shirley Bond, defended the policy as the best way to fight child obesity.
“This (the contraband candy sales) is obviously something we discourage and we do expect school districts to deal with these situations as they occur,” Bond said in a statement.
“But the most important thing is that our education system is leading the way in promoting healthier lifestyles for our children. I think that’s something all British Columbians support.”
As for Original Fresh, they’re planning on expanding their business, moving into the soda pop market as soon as next week – once they figure out how to keep the drinks cold.
“We just started this out for fun, and now we actually realize it’s turning into a big business,” says Stoklosa.
“We’ll just see what goes down along the road and go from there.”

Source: The Canadian Press