Vending machines promoting healthy options cause confusion with junk food

Angelica Arinze

Grabbing a snack from campus vending machines can be a quick and reliable way to satisfy a craving or get a quick bite to eat in between classes, but some students feel misled by the advertisement of healthy snacks. 

Although vending machines do not usually have the healthiest options, University Housing and Dining have placed stickers on select vending machines throughout campus that claim the machines offer “healthy balanced options.” Individual items with less than 250 calories, 10 grams of fat and 20 grams of sugar are labeled with “choice plus” stickers and tags, according to labels on vending machines. 

Sarah Frey is the health promotion coordinator for the Longhorn Wellness Center. Frey said these stickers are a part of the “Light Bites” program, which is a wellness initiative sponsored by the University’s Healthy Dining Committee designed to infuse more nutritionally minded snacks with other vending products.

Despite this, students have expressed confusion over the purpose and nutritional claim of the stickers, which are placed on vending machines that include various candies and snacks, such as Twix, Skittles and Pop-Tarts.

“The stickers are ridiculous,” psychology sophomore Faith Piland said . “There’s nothing healthy in the machines. I’ve seen cookies, candies and chips. They could at least have dried fruit or healthy trail mix or bars or something.”

Radio-television-film freshman Steven Morvant said that while he still enjoys the candy items from the machines, the stickers claiming the snacks are healthy are misleading.

“I don’t think snack options should be restricted, but the labels need to not be misleading,” Morvant said. “I believe that the snack options should be a great variety of healthy and less than healthy snacks, but the stickers are misleading in claiming that the snacks are very healthy when many of them have little to no nutritional value.”

Frey said these stickers were put on select machines throughout campus to give students more nutritional variety to choose from and to encourage students to create more personalized snacking habits.

“Each individual student should first approach looking at what their goals are for snacking and how snacking fits into their overall eating pattern,” Frey said. “The original goal of the healthy vending program wasn’t necessarily to limit the campus community snack choices; it was only to infuse the ‘Light Bites’ healthier choices and to ensure that healthy choices were present.”