Over the past few years there has been a push by consumers and public health organizations to have healthier, less caloric, more nutrient dense food in vending machines.  Although some U.S. hospitals have moved in that direction, many are behind in that regard.  Residing in Massachusetts I have had the opportunity to visit many hospitals in the Boston and greater Boston area, either as a patient or a visitor. Vending machines are placed in various lobbies and hallways of these hospitals and as a vending machine service provider focusing on healthier options I can’t help but study the machines and their content.  The majority of product in these machines contain junk food and sugary sodas, with little or no choice for healthier options.

So why is healthy vending in hospitals important?

Let’s look at the mission of a hospital or medical facility – Hospitals are to help people get “healthy”.  Hospitals are for the sick or injured to nurture them back to health, so why wouldn’t hospitals want to offer food that has some nutritious value?  At a minimum a hospital should offer healthier options so its stakeholders have a choice.

Having healthy options for staff members, families and friends at hospitals should be a number one priority for many reasons.

1. Hospital staff and essential workers go non-stop, often not having the time to sit down and take a lunch.  Healthy options need to be readily available for the staff. They work long shifts and need to be nourished so that they can be of service to their patients.

2. Visitors often are visiting sick friends and family whether patients are there for a short stay or are terminal.  At some point the visitor realizes they are famished and needs to leave the room to grab something quickly from the vending machine, whether the cafeteria is closed or the visitor does not want to leave for a length of time. (Hospitals have cafeterias and some even have cafes and restaurants, but they aren’t a 24/7 service.) Visitors should be able to grab that nutrition dense meal replacement bar or a whole grain turkey sandwich from a vending machine rather than a candy bar.

Further, a visitor might be unable or unwilling to venture to the nearest eatery to get a meal. They may be unfamiliar to the area or scared to leave the hospital at night.

Visitors with children are looking for food with less sugar. As children we all loved buying something from a vending machine, often begging our parents for the experience of watching that snack fall from the coil.  With healthy vending, parents no longer have to compromise nutrition when purchasing from a vending machine. Our vending machine services provide families with a variety of options for snacks and drinks with less sugar content.

3. Patients come to hospitals for tests, bloodwork or other outpatient services sometimes waiting for several hours.  These patients are in the hospital’s care and should receive the same commitment of health in their vending machines as they do with their medical services.

4. Making a difference. In a study performed by the County of Los Angeles covering the period November 2013 – September 2015 and published by the Public Healthy Post, they found that out of 170 beverage machines and 127 snack machines placed in public facilities, the average amount of sugar purchased per beverage between 2013 and 2015 decreased by 90 and there was a 30% decrease in the average amount of sodium purchased per snack. There was a small decrease in revenue for the vending service provider which could attribute to the evolution and exposure to healthy eating.

Vending machines are beneficial for all kinds of environments, but they can be very valuable to people within a hospital. From staff to visitors and even some patients, the availability of quick snacks and drinks are extremely helpful for important boosts of energy, nutrition or even just a brief source of comfort in trying times! 

A hospital’s mission of well-being and care should extend to its vending machines. For more information of Wicked Healthy Vending and its services, please contact [email protected].

A vending machine with unhealthy snacks