The Collegian
Saturday, August 15, 2020

UR tests healthy vending machines, expanding payment options

<p>The vending machine on the first floor of Weinstein Hall, which now features only healthy options.</p>

The vending machine on the first floor of Weinstein Hall, which now features only healthy options.

Vending machines are commonly associated with the promotion of sugary snacks and artificial-colored chips. Although they often house some of the worst options in the food pyramid, they are still used throughout college campuses because of the quick convenience.

The vending machine usage on the University of Richmond's campus is relatively consistent with this theme. But, there is a possibility these vending machines will be converted to offer a more balanced selection of snacks.

As of now, the vending machines in the bottom floor of Weinstein Hall and in the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness offer only healthy snack options such as granola bars, protein bars and bags of mixed nuts. 

Karen Hensley, a registered dietitian who works for the university’s nutrition services, said this change was attributed to Human Resources and the Wellness staff.

“There were two departments – one contacted me, one contacted Jerry Clemmer – asking for healthier options in their vending machines, which then prompted Jerry to talk to the vending machine company and see what they could do,” Hensley said.

Jerry Clemmer, the director of residential dining, works with a company called Canteen to provide the snacks that go into the vending machines on campus. After Clemmer was asked about providing healthier snacks in the vending machines, he began to think about changing more of the vending machines on campus to include nutritious options, he said. 

He said that he would wait to see the success of the vending machines in Weinstein Hall and the gym before converting any more vending machines.

“We want to test it over there to see if there’s a demand,” Clemmer said. “If people don’t use it, I don’t see a need to offer it anymore. The feedback is not only verbal, but people vote with their dollars. If they’re buying it, then that tells me.”

Clemmer receives monthly sales reports from each vending machine on campus and he will use that data to determine whether or not he’ll continue to change more machines on campus, he said. He said if he were to convert the machines, he would offer a more balanced selection of healthy snacks in addition to junk food.

“I’m like anyone else -- I can polish a bag of Doritos if I want to, but I try not to,” Clemmer said. “So if it’s there, then it’s reachable to me, but if it’s not then you pick the healthier option. Of course, we don’t want to dictate what students eat. We’re not going to force healthy down your throat, but shame on us if we don’t figure out a way to see if you like healthy options.”

The UR community will have to wait and see if the vending machines will become healthier, but the decision is ultimately up to students and staff. 

As a way of making the purchase of these snacks more convenient, vending machine readers are in the midst of being converted to cellular vending readers that will take other forms of payment besides SpiderCard and cash, including Apple Pay, PayPal and any kind of credit or debit card.

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Clemmer said that this conversion was “a way of making this food more accessible to you.”

This new accessibility is expected to increase vending machine purchases on the university, specifically among the student body.

“Their sales will skyrocket if they advertise the new cellular vending readers,” said Brier Clough, a sophomore who does not regularly buy food from vending machines. “I don’t have Spider Dollars and I don’t ever carry cash, so it will be easier to use my debit card. Then maybe I’ll actually use the vending machines.”

The vending machines accepting these new payment options that have been converted so far are located in the Tyler Haynes Commons, the Boatwright Library basement levels and in the Business School. The rest are currently awaiting conversion.

Contact lifestyle writer Sydney Collins at sydney.collins@richmond.edu.

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