Vending machine nixes candy, offers vegetablesWhen the munchies start to hit around mid-afternoon, it’s easy to saunter over to a nearby vending machine, pop in a dollar bill and satisfy a chocolate craving.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
When the munchies start to hit around mid-afternoon, it’s easy to saunter over to a nearby vending machine, pop in a dollar bill and satisfy a chocolate craving.
But such convenient access to sweet treats, salty chips and other not-so-good-for-you snacks isn’t exactly considered the healthiest way to satisfy an empty stomach between meals — especially if this becomes a regular habit.
Fusion Dance studio is one of the most recent locations in Red Wing to take a leap toward a healthier lifestyle and install a vending machine that replaces sugary sodas with protein shakes, potato chips with pita chips and candy bars with 100 percent natural cookies.
Owner Mary Plein remembered when Fusion Dance had a vending machine with more typical unhealthful options.
“We always said, ‘We’re a dance studio and we promote healthy activity, but yet we have this junk food in the studio,’” she said.
“I think the healthiest thing was like trail mix,” 15-year-old dance student Erin Fritz noted.
Eventually, Plein decided that wasn’t the right message to send, and she got rid of the machine. However, having no snacks available for busy dancers to keep energized resulted in many of them darting over to the nearest convenience store on breaks or parents dropping off fast food to the studio for supper.
“By not having it we weren’t promoting (health). We were just being silent on the issue,” Plein said.
A few months back she caught word that local resident Wade Bergner had purchased the franchise rights of Fresh Healthy Vending and was offering the new machines in the area. Plein jumped at the opportunity and has had a machine in the studio’s break room for about a week. Her students weren’t the least bit disappointed that their trips to the store for junk food could now come to a halt.
“They were really, really excited,” Plein said, adding that parents “showed enthusiasm as well.”
Currently, the machine at Fusion Dance is stocked with Veggie Stix, Pirate’s Booty rice and corn puffs, Clif energy bars, bottled water and other healthful alternatives. But Fresh Healthy Vending has hundreds of snacks to choose from, so the machine will see changes continually.
“We’re going to experiment a little with the options to see which ones will go over well,” Plein said, adding that she’d like to get things like yogurt and applesauce into the machine at some point.
“These vending machines are a great way to offer the community healthier food options tailored to their dietary needs,” Fresh Healthy Vending CEO Dan Negroni said. “Teaching kids the importance of eating healthfully and prompting them to make more nutritious food choices is something we believe is critical, especially considering the rise in childhood obesity.
“We are happy to see the community taking the necessary steps to safeguard their children and promote healthy living.”
While the Fresh Healthy Vending machines stray from the norm in the products they offer, they also differ in the sense that they accept credit cards. Dance students and instructors no longer have to dig for coins at the bottom of their bags.
One thing to note, however, is that healthier foods come at a heavier price. While candy in an average vending machine may set someone back 85 cents or $1, the prices of Fresh Healthy Vending snacks range from about $1.25 up to about $3.
Still, the extra cost isn’t keeping students away.
“Erin told me she was going to keep it in business all by herself,” Plein joked.
“I love it,” Fritz said of the new vending machine. “And I need to get a job.”