Nova Scotia

Halifax hospital vending machines going healthy

Atlantic Canada's largest health authority is about to remove junk food from its vending machines.

Atlantic Canada's largest health authority is about to remove junk food from its vending machines.

It's the latest move by Capital Health to convert to healthy food only.

Fourteen separate facilities in the Halifax area will be affected.

Brian Rankine, the health authority's director of business development, said Capital Health is looking to set an example for both the public and the vending industry.

"We are taking a very bold and leading role to set an example of what should be available and what people should be eating," said Rankine.

The hospital is already well on its way. First, removing fries from its hospital cafeterias, then announcing donuts would be banned from Tim Horton's outlets on site. Within weeks, chips, pop and chocolate bars will disappear from vending machines at Halifax area hospitals.

Chocolate bars and snacks from 50 machines will be the first to go. Next month, a tender will be issued to replace high sugar drinks at dozens more.

"We're going to replace that with healthy products, healthy foods. Certainly we're looking at healthy meals to go, sandwiches, fruit, yogurts, dairy products," said Rankine.

Challenge to vending industry

The tender issued by the hospital also asks companies bidding for the contract to find organic, locally-sourced items where possible.

Rankine said they want to challenge the industry to think differently. He admits it will probably come at a higher price to the consumer and the health district.

Capital Health makes about $60,000 a year from the machines, which is expected to drop.

Reaction from employees and visitors outside the Halifax Infirmary was mixed.

"This is an adult hospital and we're all grown adults and I think we should have a choice as to what we want to put in our body," said one employee, who did not wish to be identified.

Others felt serving anything but healthy food sends a mixed message.

"If the pop is there and there's no milk or there's no juice, then people are going to drink the pop. We're happy with the changes that are going to take place. We see obese people every day and we're trying to teach them to eat healthy and if we have in the hospital things that aren't, then what are we saying?" said Jennifer Brennan.

The hospital said it is also planning to phase out junk food from its gift shops.