Campus News

Calorie stickers portray more than eating habits

In order to promote health and wellness, calorie stickers have been placed on vending machines of some of the faculty and staff’s break rooms.

Department of Health and Human Performance chair Charles Layne said that the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute reached out to the UH Faculty and Staff Health and Wellness Initiatives Work Group to begin this new initiative of health and wellness.

“We chose one that didn’t cost anything to implement, and we’re on a trial period to see if it really makes a difference in people’s behavior,” Layne said.

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The vending machines are now color coded by how many calories the snacks have. | Courtesy of Auxiliary Services

The stickers are color coded according to caloric content. Red informs the customer that the snack has more than 200 calories. Yellow indicate the middle range, between 140 to 200 calories, and green contains the healthiest snacks with less than 140 calories.

The trial program is being tested at 29 out of the 55 member institutions of the Texas Medical Center.

At UH, the stickers are in five buildings on campus: Ezekiel W. Cullen Building, MD Anderson Library, Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall, the Student Center and the General Services Building.

“Because the TMC program is (focused) on employees, we try to pick out places we think would be predominantly populated by faculty and staff,” Layne said. “We realized that anyone can use them, but we think statistically faculty and staff would use them more than students.”

The program will last for three months. Once the program ends, Layne’s group, as well as the school’s vending partner, Canteen Vending, will analyze the sales figures and then compare them to sales before the initiative started.

The purpose of the TMC Health Policy Institute is to improve health through evidence, which aids TMC members in addition to the city and state. One of its goals is to be a model for improving health among employers and health care institutions.

“The uniqueness of the Texas Medical Center in the realm of health policy is that if you have 55 institutions, you have 55 approaches to health policy,” TMC Health Policy Institute Director Arthur Garson said on the TMC website. “Rather than emphasizing our differences, it’s about embracing the different approaches that we can utilize—that’s an opportunity that nobody else in the world has.”

Faculty and staff will receive a survey next week that will ask what kind of programs they are participating in, what they would be interested in and what barriers keep them from participating.

The work group will release the results next month.

“I’m hoping from there we will develop some sort of programs that we would begin to implement in addition to the vending machine program,” Layne said.

If the program is successful, there is a possibility that calorie stickers will be distributed among other vending machines throughout campus.

“If it’s effective with adults, we’ll probably spread to more places and start working with the student government (and) the Division of Student Affairs to see about expanding in more student areas.”

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1 Comment

  • Great. PEOPLE… anyone who has recovered from anorexia/an eating disorder can tell you that a “snack” doesn’t have to be under 200 calories to be “healthy.” LOVE feeling judged when I grab a snack after resisting the impulse to restrict.

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