Health-promoting vending machines at the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre (UHC)

Supported by the Foundation from 2007 to 2012

Hospitals, especially pediatric hospitals, have a special role to play in promoting health. In 2007, for that very reason, the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre (UHC) created a Department of Health Promotion with support provided by the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation for its Centre of Excellence for the Health Promotion of Toddlers (2007-2012). Then in 2010, Sainte-Justine UHC further pursued its preventive mission by setting up its Health Promotion Centre1.

One of the first priorities of the Sainte-Justine UHC's Department of Health Promotion was to review the food services offered to children, starting with the contents of the vending machines located in the hospital lobby.

In 2007, the hospital introduced the concept of health-promoting vending machines, financed by the Sainte-Justine UHC Foundation.

Project objectives were to:

  • offer food choices that reflected current nutritional recommendations
  • make it easier to make healthy food choices
  • provide an example of a healthy food environment.

The new vending machines, unveiled in 2008:

  • offered fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole-grain products, water and other healthy beverages (fruit or vegetable juices, soy milk)
  • posted different messages promoting healthy nutrition and providing complementary information on products available
  • identified food choices in specific categories. For example, the section intended for children from 1 to 3 was clearly labelled to make it easier for toddlers to choose products that met their nutritional needs
  • respected precautionary measures with respect to potentially allergenic foods and risk of suffocation for children under 4, and indicated which snacks promoted dental health.

Following the launch of the new concept, several outside partners expressed interest in finding out more about how Sainte-Justine UHC had set up the program. An implantation guide was subsequently published in French describing the process in detail. In June 2012, a conference was also organized on healthy food environments in our communities. This conference, aimed at members of the healthcare, educational and municipal milieus, was a great success. The following observations were made regarding the installation of health-promoting vending machines:

  • Relevant information must be provided at the point of sale.
  • It must be easy to make a healthy choice.
  • Health-promoting vending machines are an excellent way to contribute to the creation of healthy food environments.

A scientific article published in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research further distributed the positive results of the initiative.


1 The Health Promotion Centre develops and runs prevention and health promotion programs and services for expectant mothers, children, teenagers, families and hospital staff.

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