Vending machines are everywhere these days. Most often, they sell soft drink and a couple of bottled water options. Otherwise, they’re filled with high fat, high sugar snacks (though I’ve seen thong vending machines around the place too).
Last year the ACT Government moved to ban vending machines in ACT public schools as part of its crackdown on childhood obesity. The crackdown also included removing junk food and soft drink from school canteens.
It makes sense for schools to provide healthy options to students. But how about hospitals?
Hospitals are a place of healing, yet many are filled with vending machines that promote unhealthy lifestyles. Surely it would make sense for these machines to be filled with healthy beverages and snacks?
I spent a short amount of time in Calvary Hospital earlier this year, and I remember the vending machine in the emergency room was stocked with healthy snacks and bottled water.
The same can’t be said for all hospitals. I’ve been told that some Canberra hospitals have vending machine contracts with Coca Cola. Despite being approached by healthier food vendors, they have no plans to switch to other providers.
I’m in two minds about this. Hospitals should stock healthy food in vending machines, but if they’re really committed to public health they should also remove unhealthy food and drink from other food outlets.
There’s no point removing the unhealthy vending machines if you can still buy junk food from the hospital café. If someone wants a Coke or a chocolate bar they’re not going to settle for water and almonds from the vending machine if they can go to the café instead.
A poor diet, especially one with high soft drink consumption, plays a big role in the development of non communicable illness such as diabetes and heart disease, not to mention obesity.
If a hospital won’t consider a move to healthy food because they have a contract with a soft drink company, I seriously doubt its commitment to good health.
Hospitals should promote a healthy diet and lifestyle. I would support a move to remove junk food from hospital vending machines and cafés.