Schools gain slice of vending machine action

Schools gain slice of vending machine action

In the same week the Government released measures to tackle obesity, Story was alerted to the appearance of vending machines in our schools.

The company leading the charge is Sanitarium and its machines dispense water, muesli bars and cereals, but mostly they promote and sell UP&GO.

Marketed as being equivalent to two Weetbix and milk, nutritionists say it is anything but and is sugar-laden and highly processed.

There are almost five teaspoons of sugar in one small packet, which is one teaspoon less than the same amount of Coca-Cola.

But how many students would analyse the nutritional value or do the maths?

Sanitarium nutrition service manager Cherry Baker says the product is provided for children but was not formulated for children.

"We do produce a range of products for a range of eating occasions and a range of customers. We wouldn't necessarily assume that children should be consuming those products," says Ms Baker.

There is a reduced-sugar option – three teaspoons per pack, so one-third less.

But both versions are being sold to school children, on school grounds through vending machines.

There are roughly 100 primary and secondary schools that have vending machines and there is an online petition calling for them to be removed.

A partnership programme between the schools and Sanitarium means the schools are offered a slice of the action – up to 40 cents for every packet sold on site.

Nutritionist Ben Warren is not comfortable with the corporate creep into schools.

Deputy principal Paul Green sees it as a step forward in sugar-reduced capacity from seeing students carrying a 1.5-litre bottle of coke.

"Personally I would rather have them drinking melon ginger and celery smoothies, but I think there needs to be a culture shift before we reach that stage."

Ms Barker says UP&GO is a "sometimes food" under the food and beverage classification and Sanitarium supports that. It is not recommended for everyday consumption.