In the grand tradition of vending machines, most pay-by-coin food dispensers are chock full of Oreos, whoopie pies, Cheetos, and Coke. Heart disease waiting to happen.
But as it turns out, there's another option for automated convenience foods. It's called H.U.M.A.N. (Helping Unite Mankind and Nutrition). And H.U.M.A.N.'s machines are making their way across South Florida. Most recently, they set up shop in Fort Lauderdale's Holy Cross Hospital.
In addition to businesses, H.U.M.A.N. is all about getting into schools, especially given the government's new Smart Snacks in School guidelines. Come July 1, any school participating in the National School Lunch Program must provide healthful snack options. South Florida is no exception. And H.U.M.A.N. wants to help.
The rapidly expanding healthful-vending franchise is based out of Southern California, but it has lots of franchisees in Florida, says CEO Sean Kelly. Locally, the machines are at locations such as Gulliver Prep, Miami City Ballet, Gulliver Academy, the Met 1 building, and Sapient Nitro.
But what does "healthful" really mean? There's no hard and fast rule, says Kelly, but H.U.M.A.N. has nutrition experts on staff who look for things such as high-glycemic carbs, natural proteins, low sugar, etc. Each machine is also customized to its location, offering items that customers will actually eat.
"The worst thing you can do is stock a vending machine full of broccoli at a school. Don't get me wrong -- I think broccoli is fantastic, but ask an average kid to eat nothing but broccoli, and that's just being unrealistic."
They're not seeking eating perfection, Kelly explains. What they are seeking is to gradually make snack choices healthier. "Our goal is to make healthy food more convenient than junk food."
Enter Smart Snacks in School. The rules are pretty explicit and set limits on calories, fat, sugar, and sodium while encouraging the consumption of dairy, whole grains, protein, fruits, and vegetables. Most local schools probably don't currently comply. But comply they must by this July 1.
Instead of ditching vending altogether, as some schools might seek to do, they can go the healthful route instead, says Kelly, and his company has been trying to help them make the transition.
H.U.M.A.N. set up a website, wrote a series of guides, and is offering a free audit -- all to help potentially confused schools figure out how to get in line with the government's new rules.
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Even if schools don't want to go the vending route, they can still count on H.U.M.A.N. for guidance. No pressure, Kelly says.
All in all, the new guidelines should make for a marked improvement. Gotta wean kids off Doritos and Snickers at some point; otherwise, we'll have some serious health-care crises ahead.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.