Smart Snacks in School: Vending Machine Industry Gears up For Changes

A new regulatory change limiting what vending machine operators can put in machines located in schools could've been a major pain point for the industry—but the association that represents those operators wasn't afraid to make sure everyone was on the same page.

Dealing with a big regulatory change isn’t easy, especially when that change is taking place in schools across the country.

But when the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Smart Snacks in School” program kicked into effect Tuesday, the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), a trade group representing vending machine operators, was ready to replace the Oreos and Doritos that previously filled the machines with products that met stringent health standards.

The new standards, announced a year ago and mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, weren’t a big surprise. But while NAMA wished the decision had gone another way (as highlighted in this statement after the rules were announced), it nonetheless made efforts to work with its members to ensure they were prepared:

Letting them know what’s allowed: To get them ready for the change, NAMA let its members know about Product Navigator, a tool created by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation meant to help operators and suppliers find products that comply with the new standards. “Now that there is one national set of vending standards, the Alliance and USDA are working together to provide resources and tools, including product evaluation,” NAMA’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications Roni Moore told Vending Times. The guide includes a long list of options on the healthier end of the spectrum—lots of juice and baked chips, but no full-calorie sodas and no candy bars.

Educating ahead of the rule change: The association also put in groundwork with its members, ensuring that they would have a strong understanding of the changes and the work needed to get everything in place in time for the July 1 deadline. This included such efforts as collaborating with the USDA to host a webinar in the months prior to the change. “Adapting to changing regulations and consumer trends is nothing new to our operators, and it is impressive that our operators, suppliers, and brokers have been working together to meet the challenge head-on,” Eric Dell, NAMA’s senior vice president of government affairs, said in a news release.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that NAMA was involved in creating the Product Navigator tool, a tool built by Alliance for a Healthier Generation. We apologize for the error.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!