UBC Undergraduate Research

LFS 350 community-based food systems project : healthy options in vending machines on campus Chang, Aveir (Yu-Chi); Duggan, Tyra; Sham, Carmen; Tan, Alexandra Lyn Shyuan; Tung, Judy; Wang, Katherine; Wright, Rosemary


Last year, University of British Columbia (UBC) Land and Food Systems (LFS) students audited the Vancouver campus’ snack vending machines against BC’s “Healthier Choices Vending Machine Policy” (HCVMP), and found the majority of items being offered were “Not Recommended” by the HCVMP’s nutritional guidelines (Ma et al., 2012). In response to this, the “Gage Snack Vending Model” (GSVM) was implemented: a model guided by the HCVMP, offering healthy foods low in fat, sugar, and sodium. This year, our team of seven LFS students worked alongside project manager Liska Richer and community partner Victoria Wakefield, to assess the performance of the GSVM, as well as examine UBC beverage vending machines (BVM). Our research community included campus students, visitors, faculty, and staff. Our research goals were to identify how the GSVM can be improved, and how it can be expanded to include BVM. Our group conducted a survey on 207 random participants across campus to investigate snack and beverage preferences. We also performed an audit of nine vending machines in the Student Union Building, and two at Gage residence, to see where currently available snacks and beverages stand under the HCVMP, and to review snack vending machine adherence to HCVMP labelling. Our survey results indicated that a majority of respondents use vending machines and are aware of the HCVMP, and yet rarely purchase “Choose Most” items (the healthiest ones). Primary purchasing motivations were cost, then taste. Beverage preferences were water and fruit juice; respondents would like to see more bars and fruit snacks added. Our audit revealed that healthy options have decreased at all GSVM machines examined, and are on average 19% more expensive than their unhealthy (high in fat, sugar, and/or sodium) counterparts. The majority of beverages were found to be unhealthy according to the HCVMP, and many snacks were (HCVMP) mislabelled. These vending machines currently do not promote food security because they offer limited access to healthy choices, and exhibit improper labelling and higher prices for those healthy options. To improve, we recommend a greater proportion of healthy options, more-accurate labelling of them, and a lowering of their cost. We further recommend following the HCVMP more closely for snacks, and applying it to beverages as well. Our audit’s accuracy is limited by the always-changing placement of products in the machines. Future students could do a health assessment of specific item ingredients, or explore potential benefits of adding refrigerated BVM. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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