The UVU Community and Public Health department has recently been working on a campus vending machine research project. It’s designed to measure the effects of clearer nutritional health information on items sold in vending machines and the impact that has on choice.
Assistant Professor Mary Brown said it all started a year and a half ago during a discussion with students in one of her classes. The class was discussing the New York law stating fast food restaurants had to inform their customers the amount of calories each of their items and meals contained. Brown asked her class if they thought it would make a difference to the consumers, half of them said yes and the other said no; and that was where the research project was born.
The research group de- cided that vending machines were the best option to use in the study because the cafeteria staff at UVU do not know exactly how many calories the meals contain.
The study is being observed in five vending machines on campus: one in the library, two in the Liberal Arts building (one upstairs and one downstairs) and two in the Physical Education building.
The group is using the traffic light system to inform the consumers of the nutritional content in the items. Foods that have a green sticker are the healthiest of all the options containing less than 250 calories. The foods with a yellow sticker are in the middle and a red sticker indicates it should be avoided.
Brown feels that it would be a good idea to have one “all green” vending machine in every building so students would be more aware of their healthy options when the stickers come down.
Of all of the choices in the vending machines, Brown said the “Granny B” pink frosting sugar cookie is one of the worst.
“You can eat a 600 calorie cookie or you can go upstairs to the cafeteria and have a 600 calorie meal,” Brown said.
Brown also teaches a Con- cepts of Stress Management class and advises students to stay active and to remember that caffeine raises anxiety levels.
“When I see students walking into the testing center with a Mountain Dew and a Snickers I think ‘oh dear, that’s the wrong choice,’” Brown said.
Brown said she is very grateful and proud of the students who chose to participate in this research project. Jimmy Fuqua, James Fowler and Syndee Seeley are among the students who have been the most dedicated, according to Brown.
The stickers will be up on campus vending machines for two more weeks. Once the data is collected, the research group will analyze it and compose a manuscript to submit to national committees in hopes they can present their project at national conferences.
The project is intended to help students learn more about nutrition. As Brown says it, “it’s easy to gain weight in college but not so easy to lose it when you leave.”