PRINCE FREDERICK, Md. - Unbeknownst to many Maryland parents, a Calvert County vending machine company, Royalle Dining Services, is on the front lines in tackling childhood obesity and diet-related health issues. Using an innovative approach they developed, known as the Healthy Snacks Initiative, the company provides only healthy, nutritious snacks and beverages for nearly 1,700 vending machines in middle and high schools throughout Maryland and Virginia.
According to a 2000 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 43 percent of elementary schools, 74 percent of middle schools and 98 percent of high schools have vending machines or a school canteen where students can purchase food or beverages. In addition, they report that approximately 16 percent of American children ages 6-19 years are overweight with a body-mass index in the 95th percentile for their age group. Some believe these two statistics are related. Ed Baddour, President of Royalle, says, "Our children spend hours each day in school. Naturally, if they are able to choose high-fat, high-calorie, unwholesome foods throughout the day, it is going to affect their health and weight over time."
By working within the guidelines presented by the State school board last year, Royalle has been able to provide a win-win for children, schools and parents. Baddour says that the healthy snacks and beverages supplied by his company meet the nutritional standards set by the State while being attractive and tasty for students. "We've found that, once they get used to the idea, kids actually love the healthy popcorn, low-salt pretzels, flavored waters and sugar-free juices we provide," he said. "The children adapt pretty quickly and the schools can continue to count on vending machine snack sales to boost their bottom line."
While the guidelines are not mandatory, many schools across Maryland have embraced them as a way to curb the rise in weight-related health issues in school children. The standards suggest that snacks sold during the school day provide no more than nine grams of fat, two grams of saturated fat and restrict sugar to 15 grams or less. Snacks that do not meet these criteria are still available in some schools, but are only available for purchase after regular school hours.
These standards, while good for children, originally caused concern among some school administrators who often rely on proceeds from vending machine sales to balance their budgets and provide ancillary student services. By adhering to the State guidelines, schools are able to sell vending machine products throughout the entire school day, which helps provide a greater revenue stream.
Baddour has been in the food service business for more than 30 years. The company provides vending machine supplies, including snack foods and beverages, to a variety of institutional and business clients. The company was recently awarded a $3.6 million contract to initiate the healthy snack and beverage program in Prince George's County, in addition to the 12 other counties and jurisdictions it already serves. The company employs 41 people and will soon be seeking additional route drivers, sales and warehouse staff to fill the increasing need for healthy snacks.
Baddour says, "I am hopeful that the trend will continue into office parks, hospitals and government buildings - I think Americans realize that appropriate snack foods and drinks can have a place in their diets and they are happy to make healthy choices when there are alternatives."
For more information on Royalle Dining Services, Inc., call 800.404.8704, 410.257.0124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Web site at www.royalle.net.