Healthy food vending machines coming to high schools in Huntsville this year

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville City Schools will have vending machines in all of its high schools at the start of this school year.

Monday, district leaders said the vending machines will contain healthy meals for students on-the-go, and those meals can serve students even separate from traditional mealtimes.

"It's going to give kids menu options throughout the day. Not just for breakfast or lunch, but also for the supper program," said Henry Ward, Huntsville City Schools Director of Child Nutrition, "like students who are involved in enrichment activities, after school." He added, "You'll have salad with grilled chicken in it, along with the dressing and milk and a piece of whole fruit. We'll also have parfaits and also smoothies in there as well."

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The machines will allow students to use their birthdate and school ID number to access the food. We're assured that if a student qualifies for free or reduced meals, the vending machine food will be included in that. Students are able to access the machines once per mealtime.

"It will also take some of the pressure off the lines," said Ward, who remarked that some students may not enjoy waiting in a lunch line in order to eat.

Huntsville City Schools is also launching the EZ School Lunch app to provide a menu for students and parents to view. Ward said the app will allow students to mark their favorite meals to get notifications for when those will be served.

"It's actually also an opportunity to give us feedback from parents and students to let us know what they like and what they don't like, and to see if we need to make any menu changes based on public opinion," Ward added.

Students will see virtual menus at every school this year too.

"The app is connected to the virtual menus," said Ward. "The board is usually close to the dining locations to give you the lunch menu per meal."

The goal is to get students more meal options, while increasing the amount of students who eat them. Leaders want to make sure students who may not get enough food at home have plenty of ways to eat it during the school day, and after-school activities.

"We feel like it will increase our participation in each meal that is served," said Ward. "The whole idea is to serve as many students as possible, and this gives us an avenue to do that. It helps our program grow and helps us become a better partner for our schools."