Health Food and Vending Machines—a Contradiction of Terms?

October 2014:
This article looks at some early versions of vending machines going farm fresh.

Feb. 2014: Man Attacks Vending Machine:
A man was fired after using a forklift to retrieve a stubborn Twix candy bar from a vending machine

Free Beer: Amstel beer has a vending machine offer–stand perfectly still for three straight minutes and this harbinger of serenity will reward you with a free beer.

Note: Doc Callahan, retired professor, part-time farmer, and full-time pontificator, occasionally adds his advice column expertise to our blog. Doc’s viewpoints are not necessarily those held by CAST—or, frankly, anyone else.

Matching Wits with a Vending Machine
I’ve had several love-hate relationships with vending machines, and sure enough, other people seem to have parallel experiences, as these inquiries demonstrate. Also, check below for some useful links about all this.
Dear Doc,
The school board voted to take Cheetos, Pop Tarts, and candy bars out of our school cafeteria vending machine. I’m an active 14-year old. Carrot sticks and raisins won’t get me through Mrs. Kerfawful’s afternoon writing class. Sugar-starved in St. Louis
Dear Sugar-starved,
You kids are caught in another adult battle, and you’ll hear words like “healthful, choice, and obesity.” I’m not much for mandates, but in the future, you might be glad you missed the diabetes train because someone vetoed the junk food. In my day, we had other means of staying awake during classes—spit wads, rubber bands, and rude noises. Ask your school to install a vending machine that sells those.  Doc
Dear Doc,
Maybe I’ve been watching too much science fiction, but I swear the vending machine at work has human traits. If my dollar bill has the slightest wrinkle, the machine spits it back out and seems to make a mechanical jeering sound. When I’m desperate for a savory snack, the machine makes sure the bag of peanuts gets stuck in a spot just out of reach. And the Dr Pepper “sold out” light is never on even when that choice is all gone. I’m forced to drink Mountain Dew! Do you think the machine is picking on me?  Paranoid in Peoria

Dear Paranoid,

I’ve lost numerous battles with vending machines, so I know what you mean. I worked in Japan—the vending machine paradise—and the drink machines were like cyber sirens. “Irasshiamasu,” it would say to welcome me in a female, robotic voice. Then the paper cup would drop into the slot on its side and the Fanta Orange would dribble off into the drain. But the machine would stay positive as it thanked me, “Arigato Gozaimashita.” You could get just about anything but handguns in Japanese vending machines—whiskey, potted plants, dress shirts. But that was years ago. With smartphones and apps, you won’t be outwitted by vending machines anymore. You’ll be ignored. Your iPhone will have a meaningful conversation with a sandwich machine. Your phone already knows what you want for lunch. Doc
Dear Doc,
The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) set standards for food and beverages in vending machines. My boss has gone gung ho about these recommendations, and now I’m suffering at the office. The vending machine in our lounge has granola, juice, and something called Organic Berfunkle. By 10:00 a.m. I start getting Twinkies tremors, and in the afternoon a lack of high fructose makes me feel low and lethargic. This NANA word seems more like “nanny” to me. Any ideas?  Hungry for Freedom in Philly
Dear Hungry,
Many agree with you that we should be able to choose snacks without Big Brother watching. Others think junk food pushers have used ads and sugar addiction to make us all think we have choice when it’s actually a selection among heart problems, diabetes, and obesity. At my age, my “sweet tooths” have fallen out, so I no longer think lemon drops, jelly beans, and candied orange slices provide three of the basic food groups. I even eat broccoli, kale, and tofu now—by choice. But I still like having options, so I advise that you try some of the healthy stuff—and then smuggle in jelly-filled donuts as needed. Just remember to wipe the powdered sugar and raspberry filling off your keyboard before your job evaluation session. Doc  
** Related sites:  1. Why healthful vending machines might hurt the blind.   2. The wild and wonderful world of Japanese vending machines.  3. Pepsi’s latest vending machine gives you a free Pepsi in exchange for a ‘like’ on Facebook.  
dan gogerty (top photo from; second photo from

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