Schools Dangle Carrot Snacks, but It’s a Tough Sale

Marion Herbert's picture
Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The new vending machine sat unnoticed as students rushed past its baby carrots, yogurt smoothies and hummus to neighbors dispensing Snapple, Doritos, Goldfish and Cheez-It. The lunch period was nearly over before a potential customer stopped to check out its offerings. No sale.

“This is way too healthy for a snack,” said John Achnitz, 15, a 10th grader. “Kids want healthy stuff like baked Doritos, but not an apple that they can get at home free.”

Like many schools across the nation, Commack High School on Long Island is stepping up its war on junk food this year. Its new cafeteria vending machine — a lighted panel on the front shows sliced apples and oranges against a backdrop of lettuce — is part of a pilot program intended to encourage students who skip lunch or stay late for sports to make better choices.

“By fostering healthy snack vending options, we support the lessons that are taught in the classroom and at home,” said Donald A. James, the superintendent of schools.

But so far, potato chips are winning.

Commack’s healthy machine sold 296 items totaling $388.75 from Sept. 1 to Sept. 19, less than one-third of the sales made by a nearby machine that offers less nutritious fare. Moreover, the top-selling item from the new machine was baked potato chips — less fat than fried chips, but less than ideal — with almost no takers for peach smoothies, roasted edamame or fresh pineapple chunks.

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