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Healthy Vending Iowa


Healthy Vending Iowa relies on a project coordinator to implement the intervention.  This project coordinator may be a part of the worksite wellness committee or may be from the state or local public health department.  Training using the online tutorial is required to ensure accurate assessment of the vending environment using the NEMS-V (see ‘Training and Technical Assistance’ section).  It is recommended that the intervention be fully implemented over the course of 6 months; however, worksites or other locations may continue to use Healthy Vending Iowa to further improve and promote healthy snacking. 

How It Works

  1. NEMS-V Assessment: For each individual vending machine, the project coordinator completes the color coding for food or beverage items that clearly fall into the green, yellow, or red categories.  If the food or beverage items are not listed on the Food References Sheet, complete an internet search for the product nutrition label and enter the nutrition information into the Healthy Choices Calculator.  Go to www.nems-v.com and click on the Worksite Vending Report Card button to enter information from the site location and individual vending machines.
  2. Worksite Vending Report Card: The customized Report Card indicates how many food and beverage items need to be changed to green or yellow in order to earn a recognition level.  The Report Card also includes a checklist for actions to take to improve the vending environment and eventually implement a vending policy.  If applicable, a Recognition-Level Certificate will also be provided.  The recognition levels include Bronze (30% of choices are yellow or green); Silver (40% are yellow or green); Gold (50% are yellow or green and no red foods are advertised).
  1. Worksite Wellness Committee: Form a worksite wellness committee that includes the project coordinator in order to define worksite goals for healthier vending, to organize communication efforts with vendors and work toward developing a healthy vending policy, and to coordinate employee activities promoting healthy vending.
  1. Vendor Communications: The project coordinator or worksite wellness committee representative should meet with the worksite vendor representative to provide the company with healthy food and beverage standards and to discuss the current availability and need for healthier food and beverage options in the vending machine.  Additional discussion points may include labeling the items with red-yellow-green stickers or reducing the cost of healthy food items.  Work towards having at least 30% of yellow or green food and beverage items in each vending machine and renegotiating vendor contracts to include sections that promote healthier food and beverage choices.
  1. Employee Involvement: Engage employees in the worksite efforts toward healthier vending.  Make arrangements with the vendor to do product tastings or ‘Free Snack Day’ with employees.  These taste tests may include a survey component to provide feedback to vendors on which healthy food and beverage items were most preferred by employees.  Provide incentives to employees who purchase healthy options, such as stress balls shaped like fruits or vegetables or kitchen utensils like vegetable peelers.
  1. Social Marketing Campaign: Motivate employees to use the NEMS-V color coded system to snack healthier.  The Mix-It-Up campaign contains a variety of materials (e.g., vending machine signs, promotional posters, brochures) to promote healthy vending and help employees choose healthier options.   
  1. Follow-up NEMS-V Assessment: Conduct a follow-up NEMS-V assessment after a specified time period (e.g., 6 months following the initial assessment), to evaluate progress toward healthier vending. Use the follow-up assessment and other information (e.g., minutes from worksite wellness committee meetings) to document successes, challenges, and progress toward healthier vending in the worksite.

Work with Blind Vendors

An important aspect of Healthy Vending Iowa is collaborations between the IDPH and blind vendors.  The federal Randolph-Sheppard Act gives “priority for state licensing agencies to develop vending businesses on specified government properties for legally blind vendors to operate.”  The IDPH has worked closely with 4 blind vendors responsible for the vending machines in 13 State Capitol Complex buildings.  This work has led to lessons learned, new resources for blind vendors, and a Memorandum of Understanding between the IDPH and Department of the Blind’s Business Enterprise Program (BEP) to provide healthy selections in the vending on state-owned and operated buildings.  With 20 blind vendors participating in Iowa’s BEP, this MOU and future work with blind vendors has great potential for expanding the reach of Healthy Vending Iowa. Furthermore, this work has applicability for other states given the federal law.

Keys to Success

  • Management support: Gaining support from management is essential to begin the transition to healthier vending. 
  • Active wellness champion: Having an active wellness champion in the site helps to garner support for healthier foods and facilitate adoption of healthier standards.
  • Vendor communication: Assisting the vendor with identifying products that meet the healthy criteria and marking the products correctly. 
  • Vending contracts: Including specific requirements in the vending contracts to support healthier options is the best way to sustain the availability of healthy choices in vending machines. 
  • Governmental support: Use momentum gained from governmental support for implementing procurement guidelines to engage stakeholders and promote healthy vending on state and local property.

Barriers to Implementation

  • Product availability: Smaller vendors may face challenges in finding enough yellow and green foods that meet the NEMS-V criteria given the shorter shelf-life of these foods, increased need for profits, or varying inventory from their distributor.
  • Vendor engagement: Even with management and employee support, if the vendor is not interested in the healthy vending effort, the process is difficult and could be short-lived.