Local couple offering nutrition out of the box

It started with a hunger pang at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

It started with a hunger pang at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

At the hospital with a family member, Marlene Pavan decided to grab a snack. Because the cafeteria was closed, she resorted to a vending machine — and was disappointed with her choices.

“The vending machine had less-then-healthy options.”

The experience inspired Pavan to research healthy vending machines. And that led her to Canadian Healthy Vending, a Vancouver business that specializes in dispensing nutritious food at schools and workplaces.

In January, Pavan and her husband Rick launched Good 4 U Vending Corp. and began offering their Max! Healthy Vending Machines to Red Deer businesses and institutions. So far, nine machines have been spoken for, with these installed in places like banks, fitness centres and private offices.

“It’s going over really well,” said Pavan, acknowledging that some have balked at the prospects of loosing their chips, chocolate bars and pop.

“Some people picture healthy as not very tasty.”

But that’s not the case, said Pavan, who lists veggie straws, trail mix, almonds, protein bars, chocolate-covered berries and yogurt among the products she carries. Beverage options include vitamin water, pure juices, organic chocolate milk and coconut water.

Some items she gets from Canadian Healthy Vending, others she sources from local and regional suppliers.

Max! Healthy Vending Machines feature an LCD video display where users can find nutritional information about the products inside.

“When something is behind glass in a vending machine, they can’t read the labels that well,” explained Pavan.

The display can also be programmed by the host organization to transmit messages for staff, or advertising for customers. An extensive list of alternate food and beverage options is also available, and requests for new products can be sent to Pavan electronically from the machine.

Good 4 U Vending’s machines have dual temperature zones, accept credit cards and allow Pavan to monitor supplies from off-site.

“We know exactly what to take for restocking.”

She would like to see more healthy vending machines in Red Deer.

“It’s frustrating that there aren’t more options for people when they’re out in the public.”

So far, Good 4 U Vending hasn’t been able to gain a foothold in local schools or at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Pavan said she’s talking to Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, but the Red Deer Public School District is already committed to another company.

Bruce Buruma, director of community relations with the public school district, said strict procurement procedures must be followed when selecting service providers. In the case of vending machines, this was done previously and a contractor is in place.

Buruma added that the public school district established a comprehensive nutrition policy in 2007. This dictates what foods and beverages can be sold in schools, including in vending machines.

“So all of ours are healthy choices,” he said.

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre Voluntary Association is responsible for the food vending machines at the hospital. Executive director Ross Flohr said the association also has an existing relationship with a service provider, but he’s willing to hear proposals from others.

There are two healthy vending machines at the hospital, said Flohr, adding that the association has to be responsive to the varied snack preferences of patients, visitors and staff. He said he hasn’t received complaints about the foods that are currently available.

Additional information about Good 4 U Vending can be obtaining by contacting Pavan at 403-350-0902 or mkpavan@shaw.ca.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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