Talking Vending Machine

Independent Health Foundation "Talking" Vending Machine Social Media Campaign Encourages Good Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors

Foundation Partnering with Buffalo Public Schools and SUNY to Help Spread Healthy Options Message

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y., March 10, 2015 - Independent Health Foundation recently released a series of promotional videos for its Healthy Options® program featuring a "talking" vending machine which encourages patrons to choose a healthier option in place of typical vending machine snacks. The three videos, which were released in early March via the Foundation’s social media channels, have already received almost 60,000 initial views.

In the videos, the vending machine gives potential buyers the option of eating something healthier, or performing a task such as jumping jacks or push-ups to earn their original choice. The machine’s messages, themed around healthy living practices, are titled Work Off Your Snack, Read the Ingredients, and Make a Promise to Eat Healthier. University at Buffalo students unknowingly participated in the videos as they selected their snacks at an on-campus vending machine.

"We are extremely grateful to UB for allowing us the opportunity to create these entertaining talking vending machine videos that encourage people to make healthier eating choices," said Carrie Meyer, executive director of the Independent Health Foundation

The Foundation has been working with the Buffalo Public Schools and has started to work with several SUNY colleges and universities - including SUNY Potsdam, SUNY New Paltz and SUNY Buffalo State College - as part of the Healthy Options® program and hopes to expand to more SUNY schools, including the University at Buffalo, in the near future. The Foundation is partnering with the schools to provide healthier meal options for students, faculty and guests.

"We are proud to partner with the Independent Health Foundation on the Healthy Options® program, and to bring the important message of greater nutrition and healthier lifestyle to SUNY campuses across New York State," said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. "The video share featuring University at Buffalo students has already engaged students, faculty, and staff throughout SUNY, and we look forward to bringing this campaign to even more of our colleges and universities."

Meyer said partnering with the schools is a natural next step in the organization’s Healthy Options® program which works with area restaurants to offer heart-healthy options for their customers.

"We are thrilled to partner with Buffalo Public Schools and SUNY on the Healthy Options initiative," said Meyer. "Students who select healthier options at a young age are more likely to continue doing so throughout adulthood. By bringing the Healthy Options to schools, we hope to spread the culture of health to more students which will lead to them making healthy choices in adulthood."

As part of the Foundation’s work with the Buffalo Public Schools, two schools –PS 205 Riverside Institute of Technology, and PS 195 City Honors School – installed healthy vending machines in a pilot project. And PS 304 Hutchinson Central Technical High School and PS 212 Leonardo daVinci High School are currently working on providing healthy snack options in a school store venue in that same pilot.

Buffalo Public School District, Associate Superintendent, Dr. Will Keresztes, said that the availability of Healthy Options has been welcomed in the schools.

"Over the past few years the Independent Health Foundation has assisted the Buffalo Public School district tremendously with implementing district wide wellness committees," Keresztes said. "The Foundation has assisted us with development of committees, and connected us with training from UB Center for Leadership to assist our wellness team members to make healthy changes at their schools."

Sue Baldwin, PhD, MCHES, Buffalo Public School District Wellness Coordinator, said the district hopes to continue expanding its wellness programs.

"The Foundation has assisted us with the development of District committees as well as School Wellness Teams, and connected us with training from UB Center for Leadership’s Dr. Paul Tesluk to assist our wellness team members to make healthy changes at their schools, to set wellness team visions, and to develop team charters. These key skills are essential to creating sustainable school teams into the future and toward creating a new culture and climate that connects health and education across the District. Currently, we have 56 school wellness teams in place in our District."

Baldwin further stated, "The implementation of these healthy vending machines and school stores in our high schools came out of the School Wellness Advisory Team (SWAT) Committee that was implemented to assist with developing district-wide school wellness teams," Baldwin said. "We will continue to expand our healthy vending machine implementation with the assistance of City Honor’s parent Adrienne Romanowicz, with all high schools through a request for proposals later this year. These videos highlight the importance of having healthy options in vending machines for our students."

There is a growing trend among vending machine distributors to provide healthier options. A recent study by Snack Food Association found sales of healthier snacks are outpacing traditional snack foods by 4 to 1. With more and more consumers trying to eat healthier, the market for these foods is increasing.

"Students live fast and move fast, so fast food and snacks have long been an easy option for them. But today, we see them pausing to think and taking the healthy options," said Dennis R. Black, vice president for university life and services, University at Buffalo. "As a campus and community, we promote healthy options and healthy living through education. Today, we have students applying their learning through the positive lifestyle choices they are making, at vending machines and in life."

Independent Health Foundation created the Healthy Options program in 2004 to help community members make more informed decisions when dining out in an effort to address the high rates of stroke and heart disease prevalent in Western New York. These Healthy Options, which are considered lower in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, are offered in nearly 150 Buffalo area restaurants.

In 2007, the Independent Health Foundation's Healthy Options program was integrated into the Taste of Buffalo, making it the first food festival in the U.S. to require all participating restaurants to offer a healthy menu option. In 2014, Healthy Options was expanded to Food Truck Tuesdays at Larkin Square.

Since 2008, the Foundation has reached more than 100,000 children in 200 schools through the Fitness for Kids Challenge. This community-wide initiative in Western New York is designed to combat the rising rates of obesity in our children. This program challenges every elementary school child to increase their physical activity and make good nutrition choices. More than $60,000 has been awarded to participating schools and another $20,000 will be awarded in 2015.

In addition to the work of its Foundation, Independent Health supports a number of community programs and initiatives to help create a "culture of health" in Western New York. The health plan will soon launch its second "Independent Health and Buffalo Bills Health & Wellness Challenge," a six-week, community-wide health and wellness initiative. The Challenge engages participants in simple, everyday physical and nutritional changes that can lead to long-term healthy lifestyles.

Independent Health also partners with Tops Friendly Markets to offer a Nutrition Benefit that provides members with the opportunity to earn a one-dollar store credit for future grocery purchases for every two dollars spent on fresh fruits and vegetables.

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About the Independent Health Foundation

Established in 1992, the Independent Health Foundation works to improve the health and well-being of Western New York residents through awareness, prevention, wellness and education programs focused on community health priorities. In addition to Healthy Options, other Foundation signature programs include Good for the Neighborhood®, Fitness for Kids, Kids Run, and First Night® Buffalo. For more information on the Foundation’s activities, visit www.independenthealth.com/foundation or www.healthyoptionsbuffalo.com.

About the State University of New York

The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States, educating nearly 460,000 students in more than 7,500 degree and certificate programs on 64 college and university campuses, and online through Open SUNY. SUNY students and faculty across the state make significant contributions to research and discovery, resulting in nearly $1 billion of externally-sponsored activity each year. There are 3 million SUNY alumni worldwide. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit www.suny.edu.