School and Healthy Vending Integration An interview with Seden Harrison of Smart Source Vending
“We started in the vending industry interested in promoting the healthy vending options to the schools… and we learned very quickly that all healthy vending is not necessarily the way to go. People like choices – some of the products are healthy, but then there’s your traditional, not so healthy stuff, that’s also available in the machines.”
“Our biggest thing with the schools is… we make sure they are very well taken care of. So if that school needs something, we are there that day to take care of the problem… It’s a priority to take care of those kids that day and to make sure the administrators are happy.”
“There’s talk about all sorts of regulation that really is in the pipeline (regarding healthy)… to regulate the vending in schools… it’s going to become problematic because students will figure out how to circumvent the system.”
“Why can’t you marry the two together, why can’t that choice be there?”
Seden shares more experiences, opinions on regulation (quite humorous) with healthy vending and school vending or School and Healthy Vending integration in the podcast:
School and Healthy Vending integration Tom: I’m Tom Shivers with The Vending Business Show, here with Seden Harrison of Smart Source Vending. Today we’re going to be talking about a few topics: healthy vending and school vending. Thanks for being here, Seden.
Seden: Thank you, Tom.
Tom: Now, tell me, how did you get into school vending?
Seden: A little bit of an accident, actually, but it turned out to be a good accident. We had originally started into the vending industry really interested in promoting healthy vending options to the schools. That was the key approach when we first started in with the school. We learned very, very quickly that all healthy vending is not necessarily the way to go. People like choices. People like choices. We provide … Some of the products are healthy, they can definitely choose those products, but then there’s your traditional not quite so healthy stuff that’s also available in the machine.
Seden: The thing about the schools is they’re a very hard group to get into, but if you do well with one, they will definitely refer you to the next, and onto the next, and onto the next. Our biggest thing with the schools is … We have our own kids in the Gwinnett County School System. We’re very active in sports, in schools, and everything else, so there’s that connection we naturally have to the schools. We wanted to definitely give back and take care of … We just make sure that they are very, very well taken care of in the sense of, if that school needs something, we’re there that day to take care of the problem.
Seden: If anybody tells you that a vending machine is never gonna jam, or a vending machine is not going to have a problem, they’re not telling you the truth. The key is, what does the operator do to resolve that? If we get a call that says there’s a problem with a machine, we are out there that day to take care of it. We don’t push it off. It’s a priority to make sure those kids are taken care of and the administrators are happy, because another thing you don’t want is mad kids in the school. Those machines, if something jams, they love to rock it and shake it and try to get their product out and do different wonderful things to it, so you’ve gotta stay on top of it.
Seden: As far as the healthy goes, it comes down to choices. There’s talk about all sorts of regulation that really is in the pipeline. Whoever gets elected is going to depend on what happens, but there’s a lot of talk about regulating the vending in the schools. It’s happening in a lot of other states and could very well happen in Georgia. It’s gonna become problematic because students will figure out a way to circumvent the system, and that’s the bottom line. I’m a strong proponent on choice, just put part healthy, part junk, if I can say that, but part not so healthy, and let the person choose. These kids are old enough to make these decisions. We’re not talking about elementary school kids. These are high school kids that are driving and are working, and they have money. If they don’t buy it at school, they’re gonna buy it somewhere else. They are past that point of forced decision, making them to make the right choice. They know right from wrong and what they should do.
Tom: So regulation ain’t gonna help them, huh?
Seden: Regulation’s not going to help them. I would say it’s like prohibition, it didn’t work. The kids are going to black market sell the candy. They are going to figure out ways to get around it, and ultimately that hurts the schools. The schools do get commissions from these machines, and if sales drop, those are funds that the schools use for multiple things. If sales drop, it does, it affects the schools, and they already have a tough time with the budget cuts and everything else. I don’t know.
Seden: I read the different vending articles that come out across the country that such-and-such parks and recreation has decided to only provide healthy products in their machines. I think having the healthy option is great, and I think it’s absolutely necessary, but I really don’t believe in it needs to be all or one or the other. Why can’t you marry the two together? Why can’t that choice be there? Why does somebody have to tell me, if I’m craving a Snickers bar and I walk up to that machine and all I’m looking at is granola bars, and I don’t want that granola bar, I want a Snickers bar, you know? Give me that choice. It makes me mad.
Tom: You’re gonna go somewhere, you’re gonna pay somewhere to go get you a Snickers bar.
Seden: You’re gonna figure out … That’s exactly right, you’re gonna figure out a way to get it. Same thing with the drinks. If I walk up to a machine, and I’m a Coke, a Diet Coke, or a water person, if I want that Coke, and the machine is only filled water, well I am not gonna buy the water. I’m not. And that’s exactly what happens. People don’t get forced into making the right choice, they just don’t make the choice. They walk away from it. It is going to hurt a lot of operators. It almost sounds like we’re saying, “Eat junk, eat junk, eat junk, eat junk,” but you know, it’s not that. Provide the choice, provide the options. It goes with everything. There’s good restaurants and bad restaurants. There’s restaurants that have healthier food, there’s restaurants that have worse food. If you-
Tom: The problem is a little deeper than just regulation, if there’s a problem at all. It’s something that has to be … Your kids aren’t eating right, then-
Seden: I’m the first one, I mean … We have teenagers that eat horrible. They eat horrible, and I’m constantly battling that, but I don’t think that it’s because the government hasn’t done their job, it’s probably ’cause I haven’t done my job. They’re my taste-testers, I bring home samples all the time. Try this, try that, try this, does this pass the test? Okay, then I’ll put it in the machine.
Tom: Very smart.
Seden: They’re the garbage disposals.
Tom: Only violence sells, right?
Seden: But the thing is, it is up to me. It is up to me, from a young age, to teach them. I’m sure everybody’s like this. You have kids that one kid gets it and eats right, the other one doesn’t, and me telling them that when they … I just know for a fact anybody who has teenage kids know that they are going to make the choices in some … They’re gonna find a way to get what they want when we’re talking about the food and doing what they … Where they’re gonna go and find the product they want at the place they want to buy it.
Tom: Well thanks a million. Tell us more about Smart Source Vending.
Seden: We are in the area in Gwinnett County, Forsyth County, primarily what we service. We work in a lot of the high schools. We have a lot of micromarkets and the corporate accounts. Growing and working hard, and keep … One day at a time, you know?
Tom: You’ve been listening to School and Healthy Vending Integration atThe Vending Business Show, a publication of A&M Equipment Sales. More Vending Business Blogs New To The Vending Business?