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Loma Linda University Health Installs Health(ier) Vending Machines


Loma Linda University Health has begun stocking their campus vending machines with healthier options in an ongoing effort to promote holistic health and wellness.

The process of replacing the array of vending machine junk food with healthier choices has been a months-long effort. Loma Linda University Health encompasses eight professional schools and six hospitals in Southern California’s Inland Empire. There are more than fifty vending machines spread across their campuses that needed a healthy upgrade.

The transition of swapping out the unhealthy snacks started in January, but the task of picking replacement foods happened primarily at a food fair hosted by LLU Health just three weeks ago. Students, professors, and hospital personnel had the opportunity to sample potential vending machine products offered by approximately 35-45 vendors an on-campus event. Vendors offered samples of both drink food products to attendees, who had the chance to fill out a survey indicating which products they’d like to see in vending machines. One hundred sixty surveys were collected and a vendor was chosen.

The introduction of new vending machine options includes both drink and food products. The items had to meet certain criteria to earn a place in the revamped vending machines. For instance, drinks could not contain any added sugars.

LLU Health media relations specialist Susan Onuma said the transition to healthier choices is one of many steps toward promoting overall wellbeing on LLU Health campuses.

“Our goal is wholeness, not just for our patients, but for our employees and our students,” said Onuma. “We want to help them reach wholeness in their spiritual, physical, and mental health. The vending machines are small piece of that.”

There are only a few vending machines that have yet to receive their new snacks and beverages, but Vice President for Wholeness at Loma Linda University Health, Daniel Fontoura, said the transition should be complete in about two weeks. He hopes the new selection of foods will help make the healthier option an easier one for people seeking out a snack to hold themselves over between meals.

“We want to assure everyone that the replacement items are designed to not only be healthier, but at the same time provide an array of sweet, savory, and satisfying choices,” said Fontoura in a press release from LLU Health. “We really want to make the transition to healthier snacks as easy as possible, while sending a small but symbolic message that we want a food environment maximizing health and wellness.”

Not everyone embraces the changes, though. Dr. Kenneth Wright is a professor of anatomy whose office is in the Loma Linda University Centennial Complex. Dr. Wright says foods he frequently purchased have been replaced with snacks he won’t eat for lunch. “They used to have egg salad or veggie chicken salad sandwiches and fruit cups in the machines, and I bought those for my lunches pretty often,” Wright said.

He said the items were provided by Loma Linda University’s catering services, but the fruits and sandwiches are gone, and there are now Clif Bars and Cheezits in the machine in his building. Wright said he suspects the foods he prefered may have been less cost effective for the university.

The revamped Centennial Complex vending machine now includes kettle cooked potato chips, Cheezits, Doritos, Sun Maid oatmeal raisin apple cookies, apple chips, cranberry pommegranate trail mix, organic hard candy, peanuts, Clif Bars, Nutri-grain bars, popcorn and other items. The soda machine has been restocked with Naked juices, Tropicana products, Robinsons Fruit Shoot juices, Perrier bottled water, Chabaa juices, and Blue Monkey coconut water and drinks.

The vending machines are not the only thing on LLU Health campuses that are getting an upgrade. The hospital plans to rejuvenate cafeteria menu options and to roll out a nutritional rating system for everything sold in their cafeterias. A similar program operating at Florida Hospital Celebration Health sparked the idea.

The system will rate items based on their nutritional value, considering factors like the quantity of sugar, saturated fats, or sodium. For example, a cookie might receive one gold star, while a kale salad could get three gold stars. The details of how the rating system will run are yet to be determined.

“Often we don’t know what is in the foods we are choosing,” said Fontoura. “[With a rating system] patients can be informed in the choices they are making.”

Fontoura anticipates the rating system will be operational in the next six to nine months on LLU Health campuses.



Rachel Logan is a writing intern for Spectrum Magazine.

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