Quiz time!

You’re about to sit through your niece’s high school play. It’s been a few hours since you’ve eaten and your next meal is nowhere in sight, so you set off in search of a snack.

Lo and behold, a lone vending machine casts its fluorescent gleam on the linoleum of an otherwise empty corridor. You approach and see a standard array of less-than-healthy snacks, their ingredient lists hidden from view. You spy a few that might be gluten-free; you have exactly $1.00 in your pocket.

Snacks, snacks everywhere, but not a bite to eat...

Do you:

  • A) Whip out your gluten-free grocery guide to identify a safe snack.
  • B) Gamble on the snack most likely to be gluten-free, and hope the ingredients are safe.
  • C) Skip the snack, and remind yourself to smile when you see your thespian niece.

Have you been in this situation before? Whichever answer you chose (bonus points for A!), things are about to get easier.

As MSNBC reports, vending machines are going on a diet. The number of vending machine companies focused on organic, fresh, healthy products is on the rise. To help things along, Congress recently passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which requires all food sold in schools to adhere to set nutritional standards.

True, there are plenty of organic, gluten-full snacks out there – but this is still good news for us. As a stroll down any gluten-free aisle proves, lots of times gluten-free foods go hand-in-hand with organic/fair trade/vegan/hippie food. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire – and so vending machines with mandated “healthier” options will likely have more gluten-free options by default.

Hooray! But. Unless you already know that that Larabar is gluten-free, or it’s marked clearly on the packaging, or you have your gluten-free grocery guide on hand – you’re in the same predicament as before.

Here’s where we can help. A few years ago the vending machine industry launched a program called Fit Pick to help consumers identify healthy choices. It’s essentially a system of stickers – and one that could easily be expanded to include stickers for gluten-free choices.

Visit the Fit Pick website and send them a message through the Contact Us section. Say something like this:

Dear Fit Pick,

I recognize the good work you’re doing to support healthy choices in vending machines. As someone with celiac disease, I need to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet in order to maintain my health. If you broadened your program to include notification for top allergens and for gluten, you would greatly increase the number of customers who could use your vending machines – and you would greatly help a growing section of the US population. For more information on the gluten-free lifestyle and diet, you can visit Triumph Dining at www.triumphdining.com.

Thanks,

(your name here)

What do you do when faced with hunger pangs and an ambiguous vending machine?