Health-Food Vending Machines? Detroit Medical Center is Trying Them Out

Dr. Joel Kahn shows DMC employees one of the new vending machines. | Photo courtesy the DMC

From time to time, we like to feature businesses that are doing interesting things to promote health and wellness among employees. Our friends at the Detroit Medical Center have taken the step of bringing in vending machines (another topic near and dear to our hearts) that feature healthy, organic and natural food snacks.

The two 2bU machines — one stationed at Children’s Hospital and another at DMC’s Orchestra Place office building — feature a mixture of foods labeled organic, vegan, gluten-free and Kosher, said Joel K. Kahn, medical director for Preventive Cardiology and Wellness at DMC at a clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University. Kahn, who is vegan, spoke with A Healthier Michigan over email about the new machines and other wellness activities under way.

A Healthier Michigan: Was there a problem you were trying to address through these machines? Was this an experiment?

Kahn: The problem (was) of grabbing low quality, low nutrition food items from vending machines due to limited options. Orchestra Place in particular has no cafeteria and the vending options were not optimal. As these were the first two machines (2BU) of there kind in Michigan, it was an experiment.

Q: Can you give some examples of the types of foods available?

A: Baked chips, Larabars, flavored waters, dark chocolate bars, dried fruit snacks.

Q: Dark chocolate bars? In an organic food vending machine?

Kahn

A: Dark chocolate has quite a few health proponents for lowering heart disease risk (as opposed to sugar rich milk chocolate). Small bars can be a nice treat.

Q: What’s the response been like? Are people buying organic vending-machine food?

A: The response has been very good, our partner Continental Vending has been pleased. They are being used. 

Q: Any plans to expand the organic vending machine program to other facilities?

A: There have been requests from the first day (June 2011) to expand these to other sites. There will be more coming in 2012 for sure. 

Q: What other health and wellness programs are you working on that have you excited?

A: We are currently running a six-month employee weight loss and fitness competition with prizes to be distributed monthly and in July. Over 1,000 employees are participating. It is called Lose2Win. We are planning our second year of having the Detroit Eastern Market bring the Farm Stand program to DMC hospitals and will be providing Double Up coupons to Bridge Card holders. We are expanding nutritional labeling in vending machines and cafeterias.   

Q: Are you seeing tangible results from your employee-wellness efforts, or is it too soon to tell?

A: Just embarking on measuring results, too soon to tell.

What is your company doing to encourage workplace wellness? Tell us in the comments section below. We might feature your company’s example in a future post.

If you’re a business owner, human resources director, wellness program director or employee benefits coordinator, check out our “Leading Michigan to a Healthier Future” discussion group on LinkedIn.

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  1. Great read here Sven!! I work at the DMC and am lucky enough to have my office be a floor above this new vending machine here 🙂 Very cool machine and seriously great healthy snacks there.

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