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Junk food vending machines in Canberra hospitals – why?

By Alexandra Craig - 8 September 2015 37

stock-vending-machine-junk-food

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.

Should hospitals sell healthy food in vending machines?

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37 Responses to
Junk food vending machines in Canberra hospitals – why?
Maya123 3:38 pm 08 Sep 15

loumin8 said :

I think the argument here is not whether or not a consumer should have access or a choice to consume junk foods in a hospital, the concern is that patients do not have access to healthy alternatives. Moreover, that hospitals have contracts in place with junk food providers that effectively lock out smaller providers.
The other question to consider is- does the Hospital have a duty of care to its patients? Do they have a responsibility to ensure that patients are consuming healthy foods and drinks ?
There is growing evidence out there that lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancers are all linked to junk food consumption, so putting the candy in the hospital seems counter intuitive akin to to allowing drug addicts access to drugs in rehab or as jsm2090 put it selling cigarettes in a pharmacy.

+1

loumin8 3:22 pm 08 Sep 15

I think the argument here is not whether or not a consumer should have access or a choice to consume junk foods in a hospital, the concern is that patients do not have access to healthy alternatives. Moreover, that hospitals have contracts in place with junk food providers that effectively lock out smaller providers.
The other question to consider is- does the Hospital have a duty of care to its patients? Do they have a responsibility to ensure that patients are consuming healthy foods and drinks ?
There is growing evidence out there that lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancers are all linked to junk food consumption, so putting the candy in the hospital seems counter intuitive akin to to allowing drug addicts access to drugs in rehab or as jsm2090 put it selling cigarettes in a pharmacy.

rubaiyat 2:44 pm 08 Sep 15

Solidarity said :

rubaiyat said :

Solidarity said :

People at hospital are stressed and frustrated enough, they don’t need to have have cr*p like “healthy choices” forced upon them. Vending machines are stocked based on what sells the best, the people have spoken, let them be.

Put back the cigarette vending machines.

All those patients leaning on their drips outside won’t have to walk as far to undo all the work, time and money the staff inside have just spent on them.

TCH is not a “junk food free” campus.

Well that’s alright then, as long as it isn’t in the wrong CATEGORY!

The venders have spoken, having removed all healthy options because they either are too bulky, perishable, inconvenient to package, awkward to fill the machines with and not ludicrously profitable because they use quality ingredients.

It’s not like the healthy options are going to jump out of the machines and force you to eat them!

John Moulis 2:01 pm 08 Sep 15

This post is timely. It seems there is no limit to the pedalling of junk food. Just today I was at the self-serve checkout at Woolworths and a staff member came up to me and asked if I wanted a free bag of chips. In her hand was one of those upmarket brands of crisps with sea salt. I said no, a response she probably thought she’d never get. Sadly I suspect that the next customer she asked would have accepted it.

Solidarity 1:49 pm 08 Sep 15

rubaiyat said :

Solidarity said :

People at hospital are stressed and frustrated enough, they don’t need to have have cr*p like “healthy choices” forced upon them. Vending machines are stocked based on what sells the best, the people have spoken, let them be.

Put back the cigarette vending machines.

All those patients leaning on their drips outside won’t have to walk as far to undo all the work, time and money the staff inside have just spent on them.

TCH is not a “junk food free” campus.

TuggLife 1:35 pm 08 Sep 15

It’s OK – ACT Health are ‘considering a proposal…(of) recommendations released in a discussion paper’ (http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/vending-machine-that-offers-healthy-alternative-20130512-2jgg2.html)

I don’t mind if the Coke and chips remain, but I do wish there were some substantial, healthy options available, or longer hours in the cafes. Long ago, I worked in a hospital that had a fancy vending machine that was loaded up by the kitchen with sandwiches, salads, cheese and crackers, fruit salad and low-fat yoghurts – it was great to be able to get something substantial during a night shift that wasn’t loaded with sugar or fat.

For what it’s worth, I think there is scope for hospitals to set a better example, even maintaining their existing vending contract with Coca Cola (or Sodexho, Serco, Bidvest or whoever), and retaining vending machines as a revenue stream. For example, water and 100% juice could be prominently placed (and be the cheapest option), there could be more diet options available (not just cola), and the size of the bottles could be limited to 450ml or cans only.

Evilomlap 12:48 pm 08 Sep 15

jsm2090 said :

Indeed. Studies have shown that patients recover much more quickly from injury/illness when a holistic approach to recovery is taken, which includes patient diet and the environment of the care, not just treatment itself. It could be worse- I remember moving to the US a couple of years ago and seeing cigarettes being sold in pharmacies. I was in awe of the acceptance.

A little pharmacy next door to my hotel in NY had the cigarettes right next to the nicotine patches and gum. I couldn’t help but laugh at them covering all the bases. They also sold 40 ounce beers in their fridge which also had probiotics and other vitamins alongside. I could picture a cheesy, square-jawed actor in a lab coat on television, “whether you’re living a healthy lifestyle, or killing yourself slowly, the Manhattan Corner Drug Market has you covered!”

I have always liked that they call pharmacies ‘drug stores’ though. Why bother with euphemisms?

Milly Withers 12:32 pm 08 Sep 15

It’s crazy that hospitals even consider contracts with companies like Coca Cola. Hospitals are where you end up if you eat too many Coca Cola products. Outrageous.

Either way, if the worst thing that happens to you while in hospital is drinking Coke, you’re probably not doing too badly: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/all-too-often-going-to-the-hospital-makes-you-sicker_55b7dcb6e4b0074ba5a68a5b

rubaiyat 12:32 pm 08 Sep 15

Solidarity said :

People at hospital are stressed and frustrated enough, they don’t need to have have cr*p like “healthy choices” forced upon them. Vending machines are stocked based on what sells the best, the people have spoken, let them be.

Put back the cigarette vending machines.

All those patients leaning on their drips outside won’t have to walk as far to undo all the work, time and money the staff inside have just spent on them.

Rollersk8r 11:48 am 08 Sep 15

It’s a complete non-issue.

Although come to think of it; the only time I ever use vending machines – and the only time I ever drink coke or energy drinks – is when I’m at the Children’s Hospital in Randwick for my son. We drive up around 4am so I usually grab a Red Bull or Coke for the drive back to Canberra in the afternoon….

Grimm 11:23 am 08 Sep 15

We should stop these vending machines accosting people, forcing them to put their money in and shoving chocolate bars down their throat.

Or, leave them and let people make their own choices. As with the poker machine debate, I’m tired of seeing all these stupid suggestions to protect people from themselves. It’s why the gene pool seems so shallow and in need of chlorine these days.

Evilomlap 11:13 am 08 Sep 15

The simple fact is the healthy options vending machines don’t sell very well. Replacing the junk food ones with healthy options doesn’t work either, because generally speaking, people who are after a healthy diet and lifestyle don’t tend to use vending machines, the same way people who follow a healthy diet don’t tend to frequent McDonalds, despite the fact Maccas offers salads.

Solidarity 10:50 am 08 Sep 15

People at hospital are stressed and frustrated enough, they don’t need to have have cr*p like “healthy choices” forced upon them. Vending machines are stocked based on what sells the best, the people have spoken, let them be.

pink little birdie 10:47 am 08 Sep 15

While there should be vending machines with healthy options the soft drink and cola ones should remain. Vending machines just shouldn’t sell bottled water in Canberra. Our tap water is great and a tap and cups and glasses should be available (I believe there are water coolers in the hospitals and nurses will provide water.
One would suggest that the vending machines aren’t being used too much by patients rather their families going through a tough time. Long stressful times… High energy, high calorie food is usually needed and extra appriciated at this time.

I have a chronic condition and on bad days where I’m spending all my energy fighting the pain soft drinks (particularly coke) provide both the caffiene hit and additional energy in a managable way. I know quite a few people who don’t drink coke regularly but use it to assist with pain management. Caffiene ingested with panadol actually speeds the absorbsion of pain killers and is also often used as a pre painkiller alternative for people with chronic pain issues.

jsm2090 10:45 am 08 Sep 15

Indeed. Studies have shown that patients recover much more quickly from injury/illness when a holistic approach to recovery is taken, which includes patient diet and the environment of the care, not just treatment itself. It could be worse- I remember moving to the US a couple of years ago and seeing cigarettes being sold in pharmacies. I was in awe of the acceptance.

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