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School vending void: Business owner stuck after province bars his 'healthy' foods


The owner of a so-called healthy vending machine business, based in Fredericton, is one of a growing number of people who are baffled by New Brunswick’s new school nutrition policy.

Policy 711 bans all food of low nutritional value from being sold or given out in schools or school fundraisers and other school activities, although the province has now relaxed the rules for fundraisers for a little while. 

Adam Larlee told CBC’s Shift NB that when he started his business, Atlantic Canada Organic Vending, just two years ago, he approached the Anglophone West School District and consulted with a provincial nutritionist to come up with a list of items he could sell in schools. 

 This is affecting my business to the point where I don’t know if I can stay open or not.– Adam Larlee

“It was a fairly stringent process, but at the end of the day, the district supervisor, the nutritionist and I, we felt really good about what we were putting in the machines,” said Larlee.

“Now we cannot sell, like, 95 per cent of those products,” he said.

Among the items he can no longer sell are baked chips, juice, chocolate milk, popcorn and Goldfish crackers.

“A lot of the stuff parents would put in a kid’s lunch for school, just for a snack,” Larlee said.

The only things left from his original menu are water, apple sauce, small fruit leathers and white milk.

“I’m just a small business,” said Larlee. “I’m a guy who’s working two jobs just to make ends meet, just like a lot of New Brunswickers. But this is affecting my business to the point where I don’t know if I can stay open or not.”

Larlee said he’s still struggling to figure out what if anything else he may be able to sell. Craisins, or dried cranberries, are one possibility.

“A lot of the items that they are saying we can put in are perishables,” he said. “So, I might be able to put in some carrot sticks, things of that nature.

“But I mean, I may only sell one and then I’ll have to throw out, you know, nine or ten. It’s very difficult for someone like me to operate like that.”

Larlee said he met Thursday morning with Linda Dempsey-Nicholson, who works in the superintendent’s office of the Anglophone West School District as the co-ordinator of community engagement. 

He said the meeting went well, but he has no clearer plan for his business’s future.

Larlee has vending machines in four schools — in Fredericton, Nackawic and Woodstock — as well as in YMCAs in southern New Brunswick and in some malls.

In the past, 15 per cent of his sales at any particular school have gone to that school, he said.

Larlee says 95 per cent of the items he used to stock in his machines are no longer approved for sale in New Brunswick schools. (Atlantic Canada Organic Vending/Facebook)

An official with the district said it works with seven vending-machine companies, whose machines used to be socked with products such as baked chips, coated granola bars, flavoured milk, juice and popcorn corners.

“Vendors are being given a one-year exemption on the rebate to schools as they adjust to the new changes under Policy 711,” said communications director Judy Cole, adding the department will cover the lost revenue to schools.

Cole said other possible items for vending machines that would meet the nutrition policy are dried fruit, air-popped popcorn and granola bars that are low in sugar, fat and sodium.

She confirmed that some machines in district schools have not been stocked yet and vendors are working on sourcing products that meet the policy. 

“No vendors have cancelled service,” she said.



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