Vending machines have a reputation for high prices and unhealthy choices. In my opinion, they’re a last resort for sustenance when trapped somewhere hellish: like a crappy hotel or an airport. A captive audience means vending machine companies can charge a premium for “foods” like potato chips and soft drinks–items that cost pennies to make and are chock full of toxic ingredients.
Marketing these items in schools has become a particular health threat, with the number of vending machines placed in educational institutions more than tripling in the past 30 years. In a school, soda and snack companies not only have a captive audience, they also have an uneducated and rebellious one that’s more than willing to trade their lunch money for cookies and pop instead of whatever’s coming out of the cafeteria. In schools where vending machines are restricted or banned, adolescents are less likely to be obese.
There’s nothing wrong with the convenience or autonomy of vending machines in schools, just the empty calories they tend to dispense. But what if vending machines could actually join the fight against childhood obesity? Or what if we thought even bigger–placing vending machines that would expand minds instead of waistlines? Here are 5 unique vending machines that DO belong in schools:
Art-o-Mat machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art instead of cancer. For the price of a Coke, you could become the proud owner of an original work of art made by one of 400 contributing artists from 10 different countries. These machines exist all over the country. Find an Art-O-Mat near you!
2. Greenaid Seedbomb Machines
Made from a mixture of clay, compost, and seeds, “seedbombs” are an easy way to green up the many forgotten grey spaces we see every day–from sidewalk cracks to vacant lots and parking medians. The Greenaid Seedbomb vending machine invites the public to join this guerilla gardening trend using only their pocket change and their imagination.
3. Farmer‘s Fridge
There are several vending machine companies that claim to serve healthy foods, but they’re just snack foods made by slightly better brands. A new type of vending machine recently launched in Chicago is going all the way–serving conveniently packaged fresh vegetables from a gorgeous kiosk. “It’s called Farmer’s Fridge, and it’s actually much more than a vending machine,” writes Care2′s Anna Brones. “A kiosk made from reclaimed wood houses the machine, which features salads made fresh daily. And not just boring lettuce and tomato salads. No, these are salads packed with nutrients and a variety of ingredients, all served in glass jars (which of course you can recycle directly at the kiosk).”
As more people experiment with collaborative consumption, age old practices like swapping and bartering are getting a high-tech makeover. The Swap-O-Matic is a unique vending machine that allows users to swap items rather than buy. Each of the donated items in the machine is free and there is no charge for using it. Users can donate, receive or swap using the touch screen interface on the front of the machine. “Credit” is earned when the user donates an item and is required to retrieve an item from the machine.
5. Rides-For-Squats Vending Machine
One of the major reasons obesity is such a problem is that people don’t exercise enough. In Russia, a special vending machine at Vystavochaya station offers travelers free subway tickets in exchange for 30 squats. “Oh, and just to ensure your heart rate shifts into at least second gear, the task has to be completed within two minutes,” reports Trevor Mogg for Digital Trends. In Japan they’ve tried a similar idea, only this time people earn a free subway ticket by recycling.
Images via Thinkstock, Art-O-Mat, Greenaid, Farmers Fridge, Swap-O-Matic, and Digital Trends