School district hopes new vending machines will increase breakfast participation

Ohio County Schools recently purchased two vending machines that will offer breakfast after the bell to students.
vending machine
The two vending machines will provide students a chance to receive breakfast after the school day starts. | Photo: Shutterstock

 Ohio County School District in Wheeling, W.Va. is betting on vending to increase its breakfast participation. The district recently purchased two vending machines for its high school to provide students with an easy grab-and-go meal during the morning.  

In the past, the team has implemented different breakfast after the bell options such as offering grab-and-go breakfast in the hallway but the school’s size and sheer number of students made it hard on the nutrition team.

“Just the undertaking it was to go to the different areas of the building for our staff was outrageous, and it just was not realistic to maintain that level of pushing them to be able to keep at that pace," says Director of Child Nutrition and Wellness Renee Griffin. “I thought [the vending machines] might be a way that we could potentially increase participation without really having to increase labor.”

The vending machines are due to arrive at the district in the coming weeks and Griffin hopes the new tech will encourage students to not skip out on the morning meal.

Offering students a second option

Each vending machine will hold around 100 meals and will be placed in high traffic areas around the school.

Students will simply use their student I.D. to select their meal which could include cold breakfast options such as breakfast bars and yogurt.

“We’re hoping to have a variety in there so that not every meal is exactly the same and are still providing some sort of choice for them,” says Griffin.

The machines will only serve reimbursable breakfasts since West Virginia does not allow a la carte sales in schools.

For students that still want to have a traditional sit-down breakfast or can’t make it to a vending machine, the nutrition team will also be serving breakfast in the cafeteria as well.

What comes next?

Griffin hopes that the vending machines will be in use by March. From there, the nutrition team will analyze how they perform and then decide their next steps.

Right now, the main focus of the vending machines is using them to drive breakfast participation, Griffin says, but if all goes well, they may be utilized for the district’s supper program or to serve lunch to students whose class schedules don’t include a lunch period.   

“We do have students that have a waiver for not having a lunch period, but they still come down to the cafeteria during advisory so that they can still get some of our hot entree options, and then go to class,” says Griffin.  “Potentially, [the vending machines] could be used for maybe salads or sandwiches or other kinds of cold lunch meals.”

Already, Griffin has received attention from the school newspaper about the vending machines. She hopes that the new tech will continue to illicit buzz from students and ultimately make it easier for them to start their day off with a healthy meal.

“[The vending machines are] just something a little bit different,” she says. “[They're] a little bit outside the box, and we're just trying to be able to meet [students’] needs.”



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