To help people make healthier choices, IPHI and IAPO have been promoting healthy vending in state facilities. Our main goals have been to increase awareness of the benefits of healthy vending, research the government procurement processes in Illinois, and build relationships with partners and stakeholders. The project was funded by Voices for Healthy Kids.
One of the big barriers to healthier vending is vendors’ concern that customers don’t want and won’t buy healthier items from their machines. Working with the Illinois Committee of Blind Vendors (ICBV) whose members operate most vending machines on state property, we awarded mini-grants to organizations and vendors to test out healthier vending and share their results and lessons learned.
The pilots were a real success and helped to dispel the myth that sales would fall off. Participants told us the transition to healthier foods and beverages went smoothly and employees welcomed the changes.
One participant working in a hospital commented, “Making healthier options the default choice should be the norm in healthcare settings, especially since there are many people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and other nutrition-related diseases that come through our doors daily.”
One of the employees at a worksite that posted “Go, Slow, Woah” signage remarked, “Yesterday was my first time going to the vending machine to buy some ginger ale, and I swear that ‘Whoa’ on the can stopped me from buying it, and I chose something healthier!”
The pilots were such a success that most of the participating sites and vendors plan to keep some or all of the changes.
Some of the ways that grantees helped ensure success included:
- Using promotional strategies such as educational signage, stickers on or in the machines, and “spiral clings” that made the spiral dispenser for healthier items a different color to stand out
- Holding taste test events, allowing employees to sample the healthier products and provide their feedback and preferences
- Surveying employees to gauge interest in and preferences for healthier food and beverage products at their workplace
To support the program overall, we produced informational materials and fact sheets, including one that provided information on the benefits of including healthier products, and steps to transition to healthier vending. To view the fact sheet, click here. Using design elements similar to IAPO’s Rethink Your Drink materials, we created a Swap Your Snack Poster to provide more information to customers on healthier snack options at the point of purchase.
We also held focus groups with staff from the Illinois Department of Public Health in Springfield and the Illinois State Board of Education to learn more about their snacking behaviors at work, what they buy, what they think about the vending machines in state buildings, and what role they feel employers should take in employee wellness. Overall, employees were interested in seeing more healthier options in their vending machines. For employees at worksites that don’t have access to other nearby food retailers, vending machines were particularly important as they were usually the only option for employees to purchase food or beverages during the workday.
The Voices for Healthy Kids campaign ends in July 2017, though IAPO will continue to work on increasing access to healthier food and beverages on state property and in worksites. IAPO will work with ICBV to help vendors successfully transition to healthier products and provide tools and assistance on best practices and lessons learned. For more information, email Janna Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org.