Vending machine serves health tips to Utah kids 

A talking vending machine stocked with faux snacks has started to dispense health tips to students in a Salt Lake City elementary school.

The machine cautions students about the dangers of sugary candies, greasy chips and sweet sodas whenever they press a button, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The goal of the machine is to educate students in a way that is fun and engages them more effectively, said Tamara Sheffield, director of community health and prevention for Intermountain Healthcare.

"What we want to do is do things that actually get kids' attention," Sheffield said. "If they have fun with it, they're more likely to listen."

Messages delivered by the machine are humorous and spoken in a cartoon-like voice. For example, when a student requested a Lava Cake, the machine responded with a warning.

"I'm a vending machine and can't move without someone's help," the machine said. "Keep buying food like this and we'll have that in common."

Students at Rose Park Elementary were often fooled during the machine's first week, including 9-year-old Angelo Huggins. When he didn't get the requested snack, he wanted to kick the machine until he realized it was fake.

Huggins found the machine entertaining enough that he fetched his kindergarten-aged brother to show him.

Marlen Diaz, 9, said she the talking machine caught her off-guard.

"It kind of scared me because I didn't know it could talk because other machines don't talk," said Diaz, who was soon laughing at its messages.

Ray Betancourt, community school manager at Rose Park Elementary, said the school is serious about promoting healthy lifestyles, and the machines fits that goal.

"We're trying to find fun and creative ways to promote healthy habits and healthy behaviors," Betancourt said. "It helps them to at least stop and think."

Mary Maestas, a third-grader at the school, said she thinks the machine could help kids make better choices.

"I think it's really good, and it will help people be able to choose healthier choices and food because it can tell you what can happen to you if (you) choose unhealthy food," Maestas said.




Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,

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