Blot graphic by Dani McLaughlin
The vending machine that sits in the back right corner of CHS’s cafeteria is popular among students who skip breakfast or forget lunch. It holds a variety of eats, and never goes too long without reliably restocking. While being excellently equipped to stifle student hunger, however, the vending machine fails to fully meet state nutrition requirements.
New Jersey state standards require food served or sold to students to follow specific nutritional guidelines regarding total fat content, saturated fat content and sugar content. According to the New Jersey State Department of Agriculture, this policy has been in place since 2006. Out of the 22 snacks in CHS’s vending machine on Mar. 12, 2020, the Inkblot found that 50% (11) of the snacks break this policy. PopTart pastries and Welsh’s fruit snacks are among the snacks that violate state nutrition standards.
Sandy Bailoni has been the Director of Food Services at all Wall Township schools for 25 years, and according to her, CHS’s vending machine doesn’t need to follow state requirements because the vending machine is not supposed to be accessible during school hours.
“In regards to the vending machine, anything that’s not compliant with a child nutrition policy can be sold after the school bell rings,” Bailoni said. “If that machine has been on, it was without my knowledge.”
Bailoni explained that the error went unnoticed by her and her staff because they rely on an outside vendor to stock the school’s machine.
“I’m going to have to contact the gentleman and have him set the timer on that so when we do get back to school, it’s only on after school, or we have to change what’s in it,” she said.
This dietary discrepancy fails to honestly depict the great lengths that the Wall Township food service staff go to in order to please whom they feed. Bailoni and her team always strive to provide a variety of healthy lunch and snack options to students and faculty alike: options more nutritionally complete than anything provided in the vending machine.
“Nutrition plays a huge role in what we do, because there’s certain standards and things that we have to meet,” Bailoni said. “Normally the snacks that we sell to you guys are in compliance and are available during lunch. That machine should have been off during school.”
Principal James Gleason declined to comment specifically on in-school nutrition as it relates to the vending machine, but said he has complete faith in the cafeteria and food service staff to help students make healthy choices.
“The cafeteria and the food that they provide… [there’s] quite a healthy selection available for students, salads and stuff like that,” Gleason said.
Bailoni takes pride in the food served to the schools she supervises, but emphasized that she is “always, always, always open for ideas” and will never turn down an opportunity to listen to feedback for changes in the kitchen. Providing students with nutritious lunch and snack choices is something Bailoni is incredibly passionate about, and she discussed plans to amend the vending machine problem upon CHS’s reopening.
“I love what I do, I love feeding kids at every age level, and it’s something I plan on continuing to do as long as I’m physically capable,” she said. “You guys are my customers. Keeping you happy is the most important part of my position.”