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Go Green with Vending Machines

Making healthy food choices can be difficult enough when trying to read the labels on food packages; it’s nearly impossible when trying to choose an item from behind the glass of a vending machine. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has teamed with the Iowa State University Extension to develop a Nutrition Environment Measures Survey (NEMS) that evaluates the nutritional value of vending machine foods and beverages (NEMS-V).

Utilizing funds from a Wellmark Foundation grant, the survey rates vending machine items according to the nutrition they provide. Items are rated as either:

RED – not healthy, falling outside the Dietary Guidelines for Americans;
YELLOW – meet Dietary Guidelines, but do not provide a serving of fruit, vegetable, low-fat dairy or whole grain;
or GREEN – healthy, meet Dietary Guidelines, and provide a serving of fruit, vegetable, low-fat dairy or whole grain.
With the rating system, Iowans can take charge of their food choices and make informed decisions. By encouraging employers to complete the assessment, customers can easily identify healthy food choices through the green, yellow or red-coded foods and beverages. In addition, machines are awarded certificates for the percentage of healthy snacks offered and a general report card for each machine, and the location as a whole, can be earned.

As part of this effort, IDPH has been awarded a $112,500 Wellmark Foundation grant to implement the vending machine policy at state-owned buildings, rest areas, and state parks, where at least 30 percent of food and beverage choices will meet NEMS-V yellow or green criteria. The project is intended to be used as a model for other businesses across the state.

The new Affordable Care Act will require all vendors who have more than 20 vending machines to display calorie information for each food or beverage item. For more information, visit, where you will find a NEMS-V tutorial, NEMS-V Healthy Choices Calculator tutorial, an interactive/electronic chart for displaying vending slot number, color code and/or calorie content for each item , and promotional signage for displaying at worksites and on vending machines.|

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