UT should offer healthier snacks in vending machines

Maggie Lazaroski

You woke up late, missed breakfast, forgot to brush your teeth, yet somehow made it to class on time. All of a sudden, your cheeks go red with embarrassment as others either turn around to look at you or try to ignore the guttural noise from your stomach. Luckily, campus is dotted with vending machines, so you can get something to satisfy your hunger without putting yourself in a time crunch. 

However, most of the options from the vending machines aren’t exactly brain food, nor will they give you much energy or keep you full. In order to provide students with snacks that are conducive to our well-being, the University should stock on-campus vending machines with healthier options. 

The benefits of healthy eating are no secret. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a lack of certain nutrients or the underconsumption of fruits and vegetables are associated with lower grades. The benefits of nourishing food aren’t limited to academic success — studies also show that higher fruit and vegetable intake reduced depressive symptoms and increased positive mood among participants. 

Business freshman Lauren Park said she prefers machines that offer healthier options. 

“Some have Cheez-Its, Cheetos, just junk food,” Park said. “But I kind of like the one in the (University Teaching Center) because there's Clif Bars and beef jerky. It's healthier options, not just preservatives.”

Additionally, many students live off campus and may have to skip going home for a meal due to class, office hours or student activities. More substantive food in vending machines would prevent premature burnout. 

“I could get a snack that would fill me up for longer,” Park said. “Like if it was a healthier snack I wouldn't have to buy two snacks that don’t fill me up and are bad for me.”

There are over 400 vending machines on UT’s campus. A handful of these machines are labeled with a sticker that says “Lite Bites”, meaning that some snacks meet certain criteria based on fat, saturated fat and sugar content to be considered healthy. Although some of these machines are geared toward healthy food, many of these vending machines only contain the typical fare: chips, candy and cookies, which has led to some confusion among students.

Sarah Frey, health promotion coordinator at the Longhorn Wellness Center, said some of the machines with the Lite Bite labels are not being restocked with snacks that meet the criteria because there is higher demand for unhealthy snacks. 

Jeff Woodruff, vending coordinator for Parking and Transportation Services, explained why not all Lite Bite machines are restocked. 

“While it's possible to modify the ratio of traditional versus healthier snacks offered in campus vending machines, snack options are determined by consumer supply and demand based on monthly sales audits conducted by our vendors,” Woodruff said.

Nonnutritious food might be more profitable, but prioritizing the financial gains from individually packaged snacks over student health is an entirely misguided decision. The University should begin by restocking the misleading Lite Bites machines with healthy food and implement better options at all vending locations. 

We live in a time where poor student health poses a sizable threat to our future and our studies, and the University should equip us with the choice to combat that. 

Lazaroski is an English sophomore from Dallas.