Portland State will launch a healthy vending machine pilot program on campus, which will run from February until the end of the academic year in June.
The program originated with the nutrition committee, a sub-committee of the Healthy Campus Initiative.
“Part of their goal is to create an ecology of campus wellness,” said Gwyndolynn Ashcom, health counselor at the Center for Student Health and Counseling.
The committee supports a wide range of health initiatives on campus. The healthy vending pilot focuses on nutrition for campus PSU community members.
“We are discussing nutritional standards for our snack machines,” said Ashcom. “We are the first at the university level to try this. We are excited to be the first one to start looking at this project.”
“It is essential that students get more healthy options,” said Anthony Stein, ASPSU communications director. “There are a lot of students that have special dietary needs. These machines will provide kosher, gluten-free and low-calorie options for them.”
ASPSU was approached to give the student perspective on the issue. Stein said the consensus was that there is a “lack of healthy options on campus”.
Stein said ASPSU has encountered a lot of students looking for healthier snack options, and that as long as the machines are well-advertised, he believes the pilot program will be a success.
The Institute of Sustainable Solutions is also involved in the program, in a supporting role.
“Health and wellness are an important part of a sustainable campus,” wrote Jenny DuVander, communications director at the ISS, in an email. “When students brought the issue of healthy vending to light, we wanted to support that effort. We are helping to get the word out about the new vending options for a successful pilot.”
The machines are called “2bU”; they are colorful, bright and have wellness pictures on the sides with the 2bU signage above. The machines are most often blue and utilize LCD screens, as well as LED lights—which are more efficient than fluorescent lighting—and a motion sensor dimmer to conserve energy.
“These machines are more eye-catching; hopefully they will stand out for people,” said Ashcom.
One 2bU will be installed on the second floor of the Academic and Student Rec Center, another in Ondine and another on the third floor mezzanine of Neuberger Hall. According to Kristine Wise, manager of auxiliary retail services, the ASRC was selected for the pilot program because it is new to vending, while Ondine was selected as representative of student housing and Neuberger Hall was picked for its high volume of foot traffic.
“These locations will serve as a good indicator of how the machines will stack against competition in other machines,” Wise said.
The 2bUs will provide healthy choices for the community not previously seen before in vending machines. They will offer at least 30 percent local products and will feature organic, vegan, gluten-free and kosher products, as well as other options.
“The main thing is to provide more options,” Ashcom said. “There will be more choices, and healthier options than what are typically seen on campus.”
“I like this idea,” said PSU employee Kareem Anderson. “Especially the kosher part. This is good for the body. Now is the time to encourage healthy eating.”
The LCD screens will let customers select a particular option, such as “gluten-free,” and will then filter all snacks available to display only the snacks that meet that specific criterion. They will also allow customers to see nutritional information about a particular snack before purchase—a concept that Ashcom says she has not seen before in vending.
Current vending machines have prices ranging from $1 to $1.50; the 2bUs will have prices ranging from $1.25 to $2.50. As a comparison, a typical vending machine would offer Doritos for $1, while the 2bU would offer a bag of Pirate’s Booty for $1.25.
The pilot program’s success or failure will be determined by specific criteria during the trial period. The criteria for success include receiving positive feedback that the community is pleased with the additional choices. According to Ashcom, it is possible that a forum will be held to get an assessment and feedback from the community possibly in spring term.
“Hopefully the standards will be adopted and we will see more of the machines on campus,” Ashcom said.
The program will begin as soon as the 2bU machines are delivered to campus. There is no set date yet, but they are expected to arrive in the middle of February and will be set to run as they are installed.
There will be no charge to have the machines put on campus; space just had to be provided for them. The machines are being provided free by the vendor contractor Canteen. PSU will also not receive any of the profit from the machines.
The machines accept both cash and cards. Drinks will not be included in the machine.