Making Awesome Changes: South San High School vending machines

Healthy vending machines prove they help combat childhood obesity

SAN ANTONIO - Three years ago, when Henry Yzaguirre's new high school was about to open its doors, the then-principal at South San High School took a big chance on a change for the healthier by installing the first “healthy” vending machines in the city.

Three machines were strategically located in the hallways near the cafeteria so that even when the lunchroom doors were closed, students were able to choose something healthy to eat.

Yzaguirre, who was promoted to the district’s administration offices two months ago, remembered, "We opened up the new school. This was different. A new concept. We weren't afraid to take a chance on it and kids responded. I think they were looking for something different. We offered it to them and it's been a success story."

That’s why three times a week, Cecil Tyrrell Whisenton, the owner of Human Healthy Vending, must trek to the school on Navajo Street on the city’s South Side and restock the machines.

It’s a good sign, according to Whisenton.

"This year, they got rid of most of their snacks because they had to comply with new USDA standards, so that fell in line with what we were doing. We were able to give the kids what they want, and they like it," he said.

Those USDA guidelines regulate what can be sold in school cafeterias and in vending machines. There are still pizza choices, but also fresh fruit and veggies every day. The vending machines outside the lunchroom pick up the slack.

This “redesign” of how kids are able to eat at school is spreading across the country -- and in San Antonio. San Antonio and Somerset independent school districts are now considering adding them too.

"Their biggest thing is, 'Will the kids like it?' And they visited here last week, saw a line at each machine, so they are convinced that it does work, kids like it and it's a great thing," said Whisenton.

He said it’s a win-win, since in addition to the better choice, kids who buy from his Los Angeles-based company are automatically donating 10 percent of the proceeds to efforts to combat childhood obesity.

For more information on our Making Awesome Changes series with Salud Amercia!, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Latino childhood obesity network based at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, visit http://www.communitycommons.org/salud-america/.

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