Many advocates fighting to end childhood obesity are also fighting to get vending machines out of our kids’ schools. The machines are filled with unhealthy, low-nutrient foods and soda. Many people want to see them kicked out of the schools for good. However, Utah schools may have the one vending machine advocates may start fighting to get in their own schools.
Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah has welcomed a new addition to its halls. Thanks to the LiVe public service program, Intermountain Healthcare has installed a fake, talking vending machine. The vending machine looks like any other, full of sweet and salty treats. The difference is that the snacks are fake and the machine doesn’t take money. When the children select an item the machine dispenses a morsel of healthy information.
“I’m a vending machine and can’t move without someone’s help,” a cartoon-like voice says when a student chooses a Lava Cake. “Keep buying food like this and we’ll have that in common.”
The young elementary students are having fun with the machine, even if they are fooled at first. Some of the children have tried to dislodged the faux treats before they realize the game. Older students have taken younger children to the machine to show them how it works and to hear what it might say.
A 9-year old had fun showing their kindergarten sibling the vending machine stating that, “It just tells you what [the food] does, what it can do to your body.”
While playful, the machine is delivering some good messages. “Hey, it’s me, your body, we need to talk about our relationship. What did I ever do to you? Text me.”
Out of the mouth of one babe came perhaps one of the most powerful statement regarding the machine and the program. “I thought it was real candy,” stated a 7-year old, adding that the machine’s advice could help people “lose fat.”
Empowering our kids at young age may be one of the only ways this battle of the bulge will be won. Studies show that children’s eating habits are formed by the time they get to middle school. If just a few words of wisdom are learned in elementary school from a fun machine, maybe the teenager will pass up the vending machine and opt for something that won’t cause them to be unable to “move without someone’s help.”