By Allison Collins
OTEGO – Students, staff and visitors at the Unatego Middle/High School will have something healthier to snack on this year, thanks to a new, high-tech vending machine.
The machine represents a joint effort by the district’s Booster Club and Wellness Committee, with grant funding from Creating Healthy Schools and Communities and the Unadilla Community Foundation.
Booster Club President Carrie Hewlett said plans got underway last winter.
“(Former member Janette Johnson) had the idea,” she explained, “because we have a lot of kids, especially in the wintertime, that wait around for practices at night and don’t have a way to eat.”
Though the roughly 15-member club explored repurposing pre-existing vending equipment, Hewlett said, that machine proved outdated and unusable. It was at that point, she said, that members of the Wellness Committee got involved.
Tom Hohensee, Wellness Committee member and school coordinator with Creating Healthy Schools and Communities, a five-year public health initiative through the New York State Department of Health, said the project easily met grant criteria while aligning with the committee’s mission.
“One of the three strategies on the school side of the Creating Healthy Schools and Communities grant is to encourage schools to incorporate Smart Snacks into the school day,” he said. “And it’s our goal to promote healthy foods outside of school meals, so this fits right in.”
Creating Healthy Schools and Communities contributed $4,500 for the purchase of the machine, Hohensee said.
Funding from the Unadilla Community Foundation, Hewlett explained, will cover monthly fees associated with making the machine credit card accessible and stocking it with Smart Snacks food.