Guelph vending machines promote drinking water over juice and pop

If you’ve been in the West End Community Centre or the newly reopened Victoria Road Recreation Centre in the last little while, you may have noticed a new beverage option in the vending machines there.

Beside the machines offering up sports drinks, pop, and even bottled water, there are machines whose bottles are empty. But all the purchaser has to do is head to the drinking fountain and fill it up.

“The idea is to make more healthy beverage options available in recreation facilities and to help people make more informed decisions about the drinks they purchase and consume,” Eric Pool, project specialist for the city’s Healthy Kids Community Challenge, said in an email to the Mercury Tribune.

The water-bottle vending machines are part of the city’s Energize Guelph initiative created for the Healthy Kids Community Challenge, a provincial initiative funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care aimed at getting kids to be more active and eat healthier.

About every nine months, the ministry launches a new theme for the challenge, related either to physical activity or healthy eating, said Pool. Participating communities then take on practical projects related to the theme.

The first them was “Run. Jump. Play. Everyday.” It was focused on engaging children and families in physical activity.

The second theme, “Water Does Wonders,” encourages children and families to reach for water over sugar-sweetened drinks, Pool said.

That’s where the vending machines come in.

“There is an infographic on the machine highlighting the often surprising amount of sugar that is found in common vending machine beverages — especially perceived healthier options like chocolate milk and fruit juice,” Pool said.

Currently, there are two in Guelph. One at the West End rec centre has been in place since February. The second machine was installed at the Victoria Road rec centre in time for its grand opening on June 24.