Vending Machine Rules Beckon For Change


photo by Lola Simmons

Senior Evalyn Berleant tries out a vending machine for a mid-day snack.

Lola Simmons, staff writer

Imagine this: It is a B-Day, which means that you have first lunch. You skip breakfast so that you will be hungry at lunch. You eat your lunch but, by the middle of second block, you’re starving. Third block is in the portables, so you plan to stop by the vending machines on your way. Upon arrival, you remember that the vending machines are closed until a little after one. Not wanting to be late to class, you trudge to the portables too hungry to focus on your work for the rest of the day.

Central’s vending machines have been around for years, but perhaps the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) guidelines surrounding the vending machines are outdated. The ADE requires that there is no competition with the cafeteria at lunch, which means vending machines are closed from the beginning of the school day until 30 minutes after all lunches have ended. This rule may set some students up for failure in the classroom.

It’s no secret that being hungry makes it hard to focus on a task at hand. Students who do not bring lunch or purchase lunch are likely to have trouble working on their classwork. The inability for some students to eat lunch can lead to them having a large disadvantage as they fail to perform as well as other students.

So what is the reasoning behind this questionable time restriction? The LRSD has created school lunches that comply with Smart Snack Guidelines, a set of rules that set nutritional standards for food sold in schools. These organizations want students to consume healthy and nutritious lunch rather than processed food from the vending machines.

“The rule is in place so that students will not choose unhealthy food instead of the balanced school lunch,” LRSD nutrition dietary coordinator Meredith McWilliams said.

If given an option between vending machine snacks and a nutritious lunch, students should choose the lunch. Although snacks in the vending machines may not be as healthy as the lunch provided by the cafeteria, some food is better than no food.

If vending machines were available at lunch, it is possible that our school would see a reduction in the problems with mice and rats.

It’s evident that Central has a problem with roaches and rodents which are attracted to the crumbs left behind. If we were able to buy snacks from the vending machines at lunch in addition to our meal, we won’t be as hungry later in the day and will be less likely to buy snacks in the afternoon. The trash left behind from vending machine snacks can be easily cleaned up after lunch. However, if someone buys a snack in the afternoon and leaves crumbs in his or her classroom, the mess is less likely to be cleaned quickly. Crumb droppings attract many insects and rodents. If students were able to make purchases at the vending machines during lunch, this would contain food in the cafeteria where it is easiest to clean and minimize Central’s rodent problems.

Another advantage to the vending machines being open at lunch is the additional profits that our school would receive from the increased traffic to the vending machines. These funds could help to sponsor school events or support the purchases of much needed school supplies. Students have a greater convenience in accessing the vending machines if they are available during lunch. Therefore, the vending machines will be more profitable and Central can use the additional profits to improve our school. Such funds could be utilized for creating a better learning environment and could pay for programs that have been cut due to lack of grant money.

“If the vending machines were open during lunch, I would definitely buy more food from them,” sophomore Caroline Wilson said.

The student’s ability to make purchases at the vending machines during lunch would result in many students benefiting from the additional food, and our school would likely experience fewer problems with pests. Administrators should reconsider the time spans in which the vending machines are available to students. Having the vending machines open during lunch can be greatly beneficial to all members of the Central community.