8/18/2011

Vending Machines vs. Lunch Ladies?

With childhood obesity a growing concern, Miami-Dade preschools and schools are making it easier this year for students to get a fresh, healthy meal at breakfast, lunch and snack time, too.  An estimated 17 percent of American kids ages 2 to 19 are obese, and the Miami-Dade County Health Department received $15 million in federal stimulus funds for obesity prevention through the Community Putting Prevention to Work program.



Healthy vending machines will be implemented in a few Miami-Dade Schools this fall replacing the need for the traditional "lunch lady".  Students will be getting their school lunches from a vending machine offering healthy food options made from locally grown ingredients that have been approved by local celebrity chefs like Michelle Bernstein (of Michy's and Sra Martinez) and Frank Jeannetti (of Essensia at the Palms Hotel & Spa, Miami Beach).  The machines will offer everything from yogurt parfaits and fruit cups to Caribbean wraps.




Star Food Healthy Express machines will be installed in 45 high Schools and 10 middle schools throughout the county after a successful test run last spring.  Students simply type in their ID number, and the money is taken out of their lunch account.  Those who receive meals through assistance programs will also be able get food discreetly without being singled out in the lunch line.  The Miami-Dade Department of Food and Nutrition released a report of last springs trial run stating that the students like the healthier options very much and the staff and administration were very happy with the changes they saw.

Perhaps after the expansion of machines into more schools this year, and studies are released, more counties across the country will consider instituting this revolutionary program in their school districts.  Inner city youth across the country suffer greatly from unhealthy eating habits in and outside of school, and, programs such as this can revolutionize Americas eating habits, starting by influencing our youth.