Vending, Concessions, and Snacks at School Events - Action for Healthy Kids
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Vending, Concessions, and Snacks at School Events

Health can mean wealth

Oh, that sneaky vending machine. Beckoning you every time you pass the employee kitchen. It offers the same temptation to students as they pass it on their way to classes. Vending machines and concession stands are commonplace around schools, especially middle and high schools, but also in elementary schools.

Vending machines and concession stands serve several purposes. Both bring much needed revenue for the school to support good academic and even healthy programs. Vending machines provide convenient solutions for staff and students who may not have packed a snack for school, while concession stands provide options for students who might not otherwise get a meal, like dinner, at home.

But health can mean wealth. When it comes to these competitive food sources in school, start the conversation by acknowledging good intentions and the need to raise money. Then see how you can work with school administrators and food service to improve the offerings.

  • Encourage products (in the school and the teachers’ lounge) to meet the Smart Snacks standards, even if the machines are only accessible to students after policy hours. Compromise and push for 75% Smart Snack items. Track how well different snacks do so you can make a stronger case.
  • Work with your school nutrition department. Understand that school nutrition staff are responsible for covering their budget through the food they sell at school. It’s a business. However, their goal is to grow healthy kids and make enough money to keep the lights on at the same time. Keep this in mind as you begin having discussions with food service staff. Through collaborative approaches, you can work together to find a healthier balance will benefit kids and still allow nutrition services to remain in the red.
  • Ask if the vendors will “buy back” unused packaged products.
  • Shamelessly promote! Work with your school health team, school administration and food service to ideate ways to promote healthier snack options. Involve students and poll them on what healthy snacks to offer. See Education & Promotion for more ideas!

Snacks at School Events

Are the pizza, red punch and cardboard cookies at the school fair giving you a sugar rush and then letting you down? Children need snacks to fuel their busy bodies and keep their minds going (we adults do, too!), but all this junk food is just slowing them down (and making the scale go up). Here’s how you can get kids to choose—and other parents to bring—healthy snacks to your next school event and prevent a “snackdown.”

  • Eye Appeal. Get kids and families to notice the healthy stuff by displaying snacks in a visually appealing way, like placing fruits and veggies in a decorative bowl or offering a rainbow of colors.
  • Eye on the size. A snack is meant to hold us over until our next meal (not be a meal itself). Exercise portion control by using snack-size bags, small plates or 3-ounce tasting cups.
  • Don’t Sweat the Sweet Stuff. Likeweise, if sweet treats are a must-have, limit the number of parents who bring them or serve sweet treats in small portions.
  • Keep Cool. If providing drinks, choose water first. Add cucumber, mint, lemon or lime for a tasty twist.
  • Don’t Go Nuts. It’s likely some kids and parents will have a nut, gluten or lactose intolerance or other food allergy. Write ingredients on index cards to display with snacks and keep ingredient labels on hand to answer questions that parents or kids may have about the offerings.

Tip: Most school wellness policies don’t address food served at events outside of the school day. Talk to your school principal to see what it would take to get events into your school’s policy or handbook.

Categories: Meals & Nutrition