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Quaker Valley first county district to offer Fresh Healthy Vending services

Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Quaker Valley freshman Vince Siciliano feeds money into one of the high school's two Fresh Healthy Vending machines on Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Siciliano said he buys strawberry lemonade from the machine, which was installed in February, almost every day. All items in the vending machine meet the United States Department of Agriculture's nutrition standards for foods in schools.

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They might look like average vending machines, but those craving a high-calorie soft drink or salty potato chip won't find them here.

Quaker Valley is the first school district in Allegheny County to house Fresh Healthy Vending machines inside their schools. The high school and middle school each received two of the machines — which offer nutritious snack and beverage options, such as organic milk, juice, healthy granola bars, baked chips and crackers, and fruit strips — in February.

Fresh Healthy Vending franchise owner Neil Watko said the Mt. Lebanon and Deer Lakes school districts have signed agreements for the machines as well.

The districts are among a growing number of local schools to stock vending machines with healthy food choices.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has forced districts across the nation to comply with federal mandates for all food sold in schools.

On July 1, the new Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards will go into effect. Under the new rules, items must not exceed 200 calories and 230 milligram of sodium. There are limits on fats and sugar, too.

Jennifer Reiser, Quaker Valley's director of food services, said Quaker Valley High School used to have a few regular vending machines and a school store that sold cookies and other snack items that were popular with students.

“We were worried (about what would happen) when the guidelines went into effect,” she said.

District leaders were looking at options for nutritious snacks when they decided to try the Fresh Healthy Vending machines.

The machines, which were of no cost to the district, take cash and credit cards for items ranging in price from $1 to $2.25. Watko said they have, on average, about 70-plus vends each school day between the middle and high schools. The district receives 15 percent of the profits, Watko said.

The machines remain on all day, aside from lunch periods, because they are not allowed to compete with the National School Lunch Program.

Reiser said they seem to be popular, especially at the high school, where it's not uncommon to see a line form before the machines automatically turn back on at 1 p.m. each day.

On April 2, at a few minutes before 1, freshman Vince Siciliano was waiting to purchase a bottle of strawberry lemonade. He said he buys one almost every day.

“So far, I think it's going pretty well,” Reiser said.

Kristina Serafini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1405 or kserafini@tribweb.com.

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