School justified in closing vending machines during school day

Kris Long, Opinions Editor

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On Sept. 25, signs have appeared on some of Manhattan High’s soda vending machines stating: “This machine is available from 3:05 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. –per federal regulations off from 12:00 a.m. – 3:05 p.m.” Much of the student body was annoyed by their being denied the ability to consume soft drinks at school without planning ahead far enough to bring it from home. 

This is despite the fact that administration had no choice in the matter. It is the opinion of The Mentor Editorial Board that the school was justified in closing the machines. However, the way the administration is going about it is inefficient and unfair. 

In closing the machines, building principal Micheal Dorst was following federal and state standards that require food sold at schools follow the same nutritional guidelines as school lunches put in place before the 2014-15 school year. The school had been failing to meet guidelines for five years. 

The school’s current policy is an attempt to meet state guidelines but doesn’t actually meet requirements. According to pewtrusts.org, the definition of “school day” in relation to the Smart Snacks guidelines the school is adhering to is: “The period from 12:01 a.m. until 30 minutes after the end of the instructional day.” While these times seem arbitrary — as it’s unlikely students regularly buy sodas from school vending machines at 2 a.m. — this is a federal requirement under the United States Department of Agriculture interim final ruling on the Smart Snacks requirement. MHS has to follow these guidelines to receive funding for free and reduced breakfast and lunch.

 Currently, the school isn’t following these guidelines; in order to be in compliance, the vending machines shouldn’t open until 3:35 p.m. Not following these guidelines lessens the intended impacts of the legislation — to keep teenagers healthy, a goal that is generally agreed upon to be an admirable position — by making all snacks available directly after the school day ends. If administration is going to cite federal regulation in making this change, they should be obligated to correctly follow the guidelines given to them. 

Presently, the vending machines are standing in the commons. Students aren’t allowed to use them during the school day, and the hours the machines are operational, students aren’t even allowed on campus. So why do we still have the vending machines? All they are doing at the moment is racking up the school’s electricity bill. The school should at least unplug them to be more efficient. The best response would be for the school board to put them in a place where they could be used or just get rid of them. 

Students could claim that removing vending machines denies them access to drinks. And, as there have been complaints about the quality of water in water fountains and some students are lactose intolerant and can’t drink the school’s milk, these claims are — to an extent — justified. However, not all of the vending machines are closed, meaning students can still buy water and certain sodas.

There is nothing the school can do about these guidelines, they are a requirement and students can’t contest that. However, the school needs to know and fully follow the guidelines they’re citing if they want to avoid hypocrisy. 

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