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April 20, 2012
Vol. 53 No. 21

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Facebook poll gives insight on campus vending options

Courtesy of Matthew Derrick
FOOD FOR THOUGHT - Billings Vending Services provides all the snacks stocked in the campus vending machines.
Potato chips, chocolate bars, fruit snacks and gum. Soda, water, sports drinks. Put in a dollar bill and some change, and the vending machines on Susquehanna's campus will pop out your current snack fix. But where does it come from? And what other options are out there?
Students were asked in a recent poll on Facebook, "How often do you get food out of the vending machines?" Nearly 60 percent voted that they never receive their nourishment from vending machines. Aramark Food Services is contracted by Susquehanna for all the dining services on campus, including vending machines.
Aramark has contracted Billings Vending Service of Shamokin Dam to supply both snack and beverage vending machines distributed among campus. Appearing in all dormitories and most other buildings on campus, vending machines carry brands such as Skittles, Pop-Tarts, Hershey's chocolate, Cheez-It crackers, Snyder's pretzels, Snickers, Famous Amos cookies, and many more.
While there are a handful of healthy alternatives in these machines such as fruit snacks and pretzels, Billings Vending provides specific "better-for-you" foods that are not seen on campus.
Completely overhauling the current vending machines to using foods such as oatmeal raisin cookies, granola bars and other more healthy alternatives would cost little to no more to Aramark and the school as of now, according to Scott Billings, owner of Billings Vending Service. "We try to get healthy options in every machine, and it's typically no more of a cost," Billings said.
What about other, similar schools to Susquehanna? Schools such as Juniata do not provide snack vending machines on their campus, according to dining services. In fact, the food which Sodexho, their dining service, provides is what is placed on campus for an easy snack on-the-go for students.
The Bullets of Gettysburg College also experience this alternative through its food provider, who just received the "20 Most Conscientious College Dining Halls" award from Best Colleges Online, according to their website. Gettysburg College also provides Starbucks coffee on campus for students who need their caffeine fix during its daily rush.
Villanova is contracted directly with Coca-Cola for all of their beverage vending machines, according to Tony Alfona of Dining Services. Almost a mixture of Villanova and Juniata, Dickinson contracts from Coca-Cola for all beverages but places out their dining service's food daily for snacking, according to their Director of Dining Services Keith Martin.
Bucknell, upriver in Lewisburg, also uses Billings Vending Service and much of the same stock as Susquehanna, said their director of dining services. However, Bucknell is contracted by Parkhurst Dining Services who "personally meet with farmers, food production owners and artisans" when receiving their foods, according to their mission statement.
There are more food options Billings provides for its machines which Susquehanna doesn't have, according to the Billings website. Refrigerated foods such as Landshire sandwiches, Hot Pockets, Smuckers and Whitecastle burgers are just a few foods which Susquehanna students could have in their dorms and academic buildings. However, with the lack of turnover and frequent long- and short-term school closings, they do not produce enough revenue for Billings, according to the company.
"Food machines just wouldn't fly because of all the school closings," Billings said. Coffee machines are also available through Billings, which could be a possible alternative to Java City or coffee sold in Benny's or the cafeteria.
Most of the dining service and retail directors were quite baffled when questioned about who supplies their vending machines. A lot of these schools just provide their own food through their dining company (Sodexho, Aramark, etc.) which are placed out fresh, daily, for students. Fresh is always best and while Billings has options and provides great healthy options, does Susquehanna take advantage of them?
Yes, there are healthy choices mixed into the machines all over campus among the chocolate bars and salty potato chips, but would it be any monetary difference to completely overhaul to "healthy choice machines?"
"No," Scott Billings said, "besides normal fluctuating retail prices on the food, it would be no different."
Aramark controls every piece of food created or sold on campus, even the ones that pop out of our vending machines in the gym, Smith Hall or the Campus Center. Because of the subcontract, students as well as administration can do little for change, but their voices can still be heard if they want healthier on-the-go options.


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