On the foodservice side, ARAMARK recently launched "Just4U?" featuring new, healthier menu items with easy-to-understand nutrition information and bold menu identifiers to make it easier for diners to find the foods that are right for them. These menu items have been tested for nutritional value and accuracy by ARAMARK chefs and registered dietitians.
Large operators improve education
Swanson Corp., a vending/foodservice provider based in Omaha, Neb. serving 10 states, has expanded its "Right Course" healthy eating initiative from low-fat to also include low-carb. Where green dots designate low-fat items, blue dots indicate low-carb. All Swanson Corp. machines have some blue and green dot stickers.
In addition, a dedicated "Right Course" machine has two complete rows designated as low-carb and the rest designated as low-fat. Low-carb items are defined as having 15 net carbohydrates or less per serving. Low-fat items have 30 percent or less calories from fat per serving. All designated items have been approved by a staff nutritionist.
Swanson Corp. also updates customers on nutrition in its regular newsletter, and during the month of March, National Nutrition Month, sends out flyiers provided by the American Dietetic Association.
"There's been plenty of nutrition banter relating to the vending industry," said Deb Prestage, vice president of communications at Swanson Corp. "We're doing our share to make our customers healthier."
Operators who want to be proactive in a similar manner will find no shortage of information resources available. (See the list on this page.)
Service Vend, a one-route operation in New Orleans, La., uses both products and point-of-sale educational information provided by Snack Essentials, a healthy food distributor/nutrition education resource based in Irving, Texas. Tina Paradela, vice president of Service Vend, puts channel markers designating columns as low-sugar, low-carb or organic. There is a variety of products available that fit these definitions, including nutrition bars, soy chips and vitamin supplements.
The Snack Essentials program has been most successful in schools and nursing homes, said Paradela, but they presently account for half the offerings in most of her accounts. The products are priced from 75 cents to $1.25, a little higher than most, but they sell well in the appropriate locations.
Public health resources are also available for nutrition education.
In 2001, the Henry County, Ohio Health Department commissioned Maumee Valley Vending, based in
Defiance, Ohio to develop a heart healthy and a "5 A Day" labeling program. The company has since extended the program to 10 counties in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.
Operators can be resources
With school districts now required to come up with nutrition education plans, educators are reaching out to private and public health organizations, as well as vending and foodservice professionals. Vending operators could find it worth their time to become involved.
The need for vending operators to take a more proactive stance in their communities will become more obvious this year as legislatures and media continue to focus on obesity. Government and media alike will find more questions than answers, meaning the issue will remain in the spotlight for some time to come.
Vending operators need to familiarize themselves with nutrition information resources.