Healthy options ignored in campus vending machines

Minimal nutritious choices offered as campus goodies

By Anthony Kinney, Advocate Staff

The lack of healthy snacks offered in vending machines in the new General Education Building have raised concerns and a petition from the English department’s professors and administrative staff was even started.

The petition was drafted after a number of English department faculty and administrative staff voiced their personal concerns for the lack of nutritional snacks offered to students in vending machines during the Liberal Arts Division meeting on “All College Day” earlier this semester.

The petition, which was sent to Contra Costa College President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, stated how having only junk food (candy, snacks and soda) as food options can negatively affect a student’s performance in the classroom.

It also pointed out how sugary snacks like the ones offered in existing vending machines are linked to negative health issues.

Producers of the petition say that the remodeling of the campus also grants the community an opportunity to make another significant change in the daily   lives of the students.

The petition states, “While we are fully aware that should our students choose to do so, they can purchase and bring any of these items onto the campus, we strongly believe that as a ‘Premier Community College,’ we should not be putting our stamp approval on the sale of such objects on campus.”

However, the petition is not calling for snacks such as candy and chips to be completely removed from campus vending machines, but for healthier snacks to be allowed as options as well.

“Sugary snacks are not conducive to a learning environment,” Anoosheh Borhan, an English as a second language professor and former Oakland middle school cooking teacher, said. “There have been long studies done that show the relationship between healthy foods and the ability to focus and the ability to learn.”

Borhan said she remembers how when working with middle school students she urged the principal to change the snack policy which resulted in more engaged students and fewer classroom behavior issues.

“When we implemented healthier snacks like fruits, nuts and yogurts for a week the students complained about the change, but what was amazing was all the behavioral issues went away. They were able to focus more,” Borhan said.

English department Chairperson Joy Eichner Lynch signed the petition and looks at the vending machine options as a disservice to students at CCC.

“There’s no choice when it comes to the vending machines, just junk food,” she said. “We need to model better eating habits. Our job as a college is to educate. This applies to nutrition and health too.

“Taxpayers were more than generous to provide us with a first rate building for classes and offices, so students shouldn’t be offered second rate food. We have great students here and they deserve much better,” Dr. Eichner Lynch said.

Canteen Bay Area Vending, the company that provides all three campuses in the Contra Costa Community College District with vending machines does  offer healthier snack options.

Those options range from Nature Valley granola bars and Quaker mini rice cakes to Wheat Thins.

Nick Dimitri, business services supervisor and manager of the Bookstore on campus, said he believes the vending machine changes will occur when students make a demand for new options.

Although faculty are aware of their ability to petition and express their concerns for change, they’re even more aware that the student population is needed to get that change implemented.

Eichner Lynch said the student complaints get results.

“Students need to be more aware of the power they have when they voice their frustrations collectively,” she said. “There’s strength in numbers.”

Faculty agree concerned students who would like to see healthier options in campus vending machines should confer with the Associated Students Union on how to get involved.