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Chicago Park District Yanks Junk Food From Snack Machines

By Prescott Carlson in News on Aug 30, 2011 7:40PM

If you enjoy a Mountain Dew and a Snickers bar before your weekly kickball game, you're going to have to purchase it somewhere besides a Chicago Park District vending machine.

Following the lead of school districts across the state, the Park District is addressing childhood obesity by removing high calorie junk food from its field house snack machines, which will now be filled with healthier choices.

Compass Group USA, Inc. has contracted with the Park District to replace all of the current vending machines over the next several months (to avoid the risk of any leftover Twizzlers aura, perhaps), stocking them with snacks that follow certain nutritional standards which limit the number of calories and the amount of sugar, fat, and sodium allowed per serving. And if your little snowflake is allergic to nuts or gluten, the district is making sure there will be at least one option available for them, too. The Park District also says plans are in the works to eventually get rid of its soda vending machines as well.

In a press release, interim Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Mike Kelly said, "As part of our commitment to supporting healthy lifestyles for Chicagoans, we are proud to be a leader in setting policy that can serve as a national model for combating obesity, beginning with what patrons find when they're in our facilities."

A representative from the Park Ddistrict told Fox Chicago that it tested the new snacks at some of its summer day camp programs, and they were more popular with the kids than expected, adding, "Instead of... a flaming hot cheese snack, we'll have a baked cheese snack. Instead of a lot of high fat chocolate bars, we'll offer a healthy high antioxidant dark chocolate mixed with some nuts, or maybe mixed into a granola bar."

The machines also reportedly can electronically monitor which items are the high sellers in each machine, and the Park District plans on adjusting selections in the various machines to cater to different tastes in different neighborhoods.

As the ban on sweets in schools has created a "black market," maybe we'll also see some enterprising push cart vendors make the switch from elotes to candy bars.