With health initiatives looming in state legislatures, the state vending councils have more to deal with at a time when their memberships aren't as large as they once were. Hence, state officers wasted no time getting down to business at their annual brainstorming session the day prior to the annual National Automatic Merchandising Association National Expo in Chicago.
NAMA's national staff was on hand in full force, ever ready to support these volunteer efforts. This year's state council officers' meeting took place at the downtown Sheraton Hotel.
Rich Geerdes introduces a new fund-raising initiative to support education and research
Rich Geerdes, NAMA president and CEO, began the state officers' meeting talking about the issue that has dominated the news at all levels: obesity. He repeated his previously stated point that the problem isn't restricted to schools. "Already, it's started to move from the school venue to other parts of the industry," he said.
Geerdes took the opportunity to introduce a new fund-raising campaign, "Endowing the Future," designed to support the "Balance for Life" educational program, research and education.
"This is a historic and strategic fund-raising effort on our part," Geerdes said, adding that $529,000 had already been raised toward the campaign's $5 million goal. State councils will be asked to contribute.
Founders of the capital campaign include: Crane Merchandising Systems, Dixie Narco Vending Systems, All Seasons Services Inc., GES, Standard Coffee Service Co., Prestige Services Inc., Arnold Vending Co., Evergreen Food Services, Bertsch Services, CL Swanson Corp., Sterling Communications, Sodexho Services Inc., Pepi Food Services, Shaw Services, B&P Vending Inc., Atnip Co., Pavlic Vending Service Inc., ProStar Services Inc., Ken Shea & Associates, and Automatic Food Services Inc.
Larry Eils updates officers on route driver rodeos and safety requirements
Larry Eils, senior technical director, then gave his annual overview of the various health and safety issues NAMA has addressed.
Eils noted that the NAMA route driver rodeos, initiated several years ago, are still popular with some vending companies. The rodeos consist of a written test and an obstacle course for route drivers. There have been state rodeos and even one national rodeo. Eils noted that he's received inquiries for rodeo information from companies outside of the vendingindustry.
"They are great for morale," he said.
Concerning food safety, Eils said new federal labeling legislation, the Food Allergen and Consumer Protection Act, goes into effect Jan. 1 for food manufacturers.
Returning to nutrition, Eils said NAMA still has its "Healthy Balance for Life" brochure aimed at school boards, as well as "Burn it off" static clings for vending machines.
He said that he only held one food safety workshop this past year, due to lack of attendance. NAMA's Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) workshop is still important, he said, due to the ever-present challenge of food-borne illness.
He noted that McDonald's recently suffered some negative publicity when customers became sick from a soft serve ice cream machine. "It happens to the best of them," Eils said.
EPA introduces Energy Star standards for vending
Following up on a program introduced last year, Eils said the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star specifications were adopted in April 2004 for can and bottle machines. He said the agency is working on standards for refurbished machines as well.
Ergonomics is also becoming a bigger issue. Eils said that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), several associations for the disabled are lobbying the Justice Department to mandate lower operating controls on vending machines. They are seeking the minimum height to be changed from 54 inches to 48 inches. He said there has been no call for any change from vending customers.
Electrical safety is another issue on the horizon.
Government will seek ground fault circuit interceptors
Eils said the Consumer Products Safety Commission is asking for ground fault circuit interceptors to be mandated on cord and plug vending machines under the National Fire Protection Association's national electrical code.
He said 13 people have been electrocuted by vending machine connections in the last 20 years, which CPSC sees as excessive.
Eils said NAMA is fighting this proposal, which would add about $10 to the cost of a machine.
Jackie Clark summarizes the 'Balance for Life' campaign
Jackie Clark, NAMA communications director, gave an overview of the "Balance for Life" campaign. The campaign is designed to correct the misperceptions many people have about vending's role in rising obesity rates.
The campaign emphasizes the three pillars of nutrition, exercise and education, and includes materials to support community events, classroom instruction, online activities, and advertising in the local and national media.
Clark passed out a kit of information that NAMA will make available to anyone who requests it. This includes a campaign overview, talking points and sample questions and answers for dealing with the media, template media materials, and an outline of tips for working with the media.
The media kit enables vending operators to address the issue in their own, local communities.
Clark echoed Geerdes' point that the obesity issue isn't confined to operators who serve schools. "Employers increasingly are looking at the same things," she said.
Operators will have dietitians to call on for support
Clark added that NAMA has assembled a roster of dietitians that its members can call for support since the public naturally distrusts industry groups. Part of the plan is to have local spokespeople in place to address media inquiries.
The campaign's goal is to position the vending industry as being involved in a solution to the obesity problem, as opposed to being part of the problem. Clark said vending operators will be encouraged to reach out to their local media and school boards.
The campaign will deliver messages about the balanced choices that are available in today's vending machines; the importance of blancing calories consumed with calories burned; the importance of physical activity; and the importance of teaching young pepople about the elements of a healthy, balanced diet.
Operators interested in the materials are invited to contact NAMA.