Count Snackula and Healthy Vending in the Workplace


I get it. It’s 2:30 in the afternoon and you can hear something growling. It’s your stomach. It’s different for each of us. Some people’s hungry tummies’ sound like one of those creaky doors reminiscent of granny’s old house, or like an angry lion, or like one of those unintelligible sounds the undead makes in zombie movies. You are hungry, and you want to eat. You have become Snackula. You are Dracula’s cousin who cannot live without Mars or fried potatoes. You go to the lobby, and all you see is a vending machine filled with chocolate bars and salty, personal-sized kettle chips. Oh, those salty chips. The umami explosion in your tongue lasts for less than two minutes because you mouth-vacuumed the snack, not unlike a real vacuum. You leave the lobby slightly ashamed of yourself as if you’re avoiding an unseen judge-y finger pointing at you. You channel your inner Usain Bolt, ran towards the elevator and disappear. You promise yourself that this time is the last time, but you find yourself in the same situation again the day after. Only this time, it was Cynthia’s homemade 5-layer cake she brought to the monthly staff meeting. We’ll address Cynthia’s cake next time. Let’s focus on vending right now.

You are not alone. Some of us work in environments that don’t facilitate healthy eating. Some folks would say that it’s really a matter of self-control. At the same time, I don’t think it’s fair that we are all surrounded by junk all the time!

Here’s what we know: the environment where we live, work, and play affect our behaviors, and consequently, our health outcomes (Glanz et al., 1995; Lillehoj, Nothwehr, Shipley, & Voss, 2015).  Sadly, some reports suggest limited support for healthy eating and physical activity in worksites in the United States (Onufrak et al., 2016).

In a review of 379 original studies, researchers found that workplace interventions can improve eating and weight among workers (Schroer, Haupt, & Pieper, 2014). Let’s be real. But what about the vending? You know the Snackula enabling machine? Well, according to some studies, implementing healthy vending guidelines resulted in a reduction of vending machine visits; and, reduced calorie, reduced total and saturated fat, and reduced sugars for every 100 grams of products sold (Gorton, Carter, Cvjetan, & Ni Mhurchu, 2010). In some places, survey respondents support having front-labels in vending machines to people can see healthy options (Carrad, Louie, Milosavljevic, Kelly, & Flood, 2015).

Okay, so there’s some evidence that healthy vending works. If you are interested in implementing or advocating healthy vending in your workplace, start with the following links to get educated and get some pointers on how to get the project going in your place of work.

From our friends at the Community Commons:

From out learned colleagues at the CDC:

From the Nutrition Ninjas at the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

I hope this is helpful to you. Hey, let me know if you tried it with your workplace!


Carrad, A. M., Louie, J. C.-Y., Milosavljevic, M., Kelly, B., & Flood, V. M. (2015). Consumer support for healthy food and drink vending machines in public places. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 39(4), 355–357.

Glanz, K., Lankenau, B., Foerster, S., Temple, S., Mullis, R., & Schmid, T. (1995). Environmental and policy approaches to cardiovascular disease prevention through nutrition: opportunities for state and local action. Health Education Quarterly, 22(4), 512–27. Retrieved from

Gorton, D., Carter, J., Cvjetan, B., & Ni Mhurchu, C. (2010). Healthier vending machines in workplaces: both possible and effective. The New Zealand Medical Journal, 123(1311), 43–52. Retrieved from

Lillehoj, C. J., Nothwehr, F., Shipley, K., & Voss, C. (2015). Vending Assessment and Program Implementation in Four Iowa Worksites. Health Promotion Practice, 16(6), 814–825.

Onufrak, S. J., Watson, K. B., Kimmons, J., Pan, L., Khan, L. K., Lee-Kwan, S. H., & Park, S. (2016). Worksite Food and Physical Activity Environments and Wellness Supports Reported by Employed Adults in the United States, 2013. American Journal of Health Promotion, 89011711666470.

Schroer, S., Haupt, J., & Pieper, C. (2014). Evidence-based lifestyle interventions in the workplace–an overview. Occupational Medicine, 64(1), 8–12.




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