Replacing vending machine fare in Chicago parks with healthier snacks significantly increased total monthly sales, new research shows.
Chicago, with its 100% Healthier Snack Vending Initiative, is one of the first cities to try to improve the foods available in public places. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been recommending that communities make more healthy food and drinks available in public parks, and the Chicago Park District serves 200,000 kids every year. It replaced candy and cookies from its vending machines with fruit snacks, granola bars, and baked chips, and for a little over a year, Northwestern University researchers collected data about the vending machines. They discovered that 100% of the park staff members and 88% of park patrons reported liking the healthier vending machines, and monthly sales per machine spiked from $84 to $371.
The researchers found that almost 55% of snack vending purchases were made for or by kids, showing that vending machines could have an impact on the future of America’s eating habits.
“These are important findings given that fear of revenue loss is often cited as a barrier to implementing healthful vending initiatives,” the researchers conclude in their report published Thursday in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. “Our experience can help to assuage those fears in other communities and provide support for the district’s new healthful beverage vending initiative.”