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Nutrition Environment Measures Survey - Vending (NEMS-V) - Iowa's Healthy Vending Tale

Monday, February 24, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Carol Voss, MEd, RD, LD
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Each month, NACDD seeks to highlight the excellent work being done by State Health Departments across the country. This month's "I Count!" story comes to us from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

A Wellmark Foundation grant (2008/2010) led to the development of the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey - Vending (NEMS-V), an assessment tool used to evaluate vending machine environments.  This survey builds on the nationally recognized NEMS tools developed by Emory University (now University of Pennsylvania).  A second Wellmark grant (2010/2012) provided an opportunity to focus on a social marketing planning process and policy/environmental change.  Targeted messages and NEMS-V resources have been developed to motivate consumers to purchase the healthy vending choices. 

Partnerships in Iowa's healthy vending initiative have included Departments for the Blind and Transportation and a private vendor who services both blue and white collar worksites.  Communities participating in Iowa's Community Transformation Grant (CTG) are also conducting NEMS-V assessments and implementing healthy vending initiatives; NEMS-V is also one of the CTG's targeted evaluation strategies.  Mini-grants of $500, $750 and $1000 have been offered to local boards of health, worksites and YMCAs over the past 3 years to conduct assessments and work towards system change.

Thirteen State of Iowa Capitol Complex buildings are being converted to healthy vending options.  A Memorandum of Understanding is currently being developed between Iowa Department of Public Health and Department for the Blind for voluntary implementation of healthy vending with the goal of providing a minimum of 25% healthy choices in snack machines and 50% in beverage machines.  NEMS-V staff from Iowa Department of Public Health has worked with distributors used by blind vendors to identify foods and beverages on their product listings that meet the healthy criteria.  The collaboration with distributors along with the development of a phone application for vendors will help to alleviate some of the barriers associated with implementation.  At the encouragement of the governor's office, a procurement task force was established to incorporate nutrition standards into vending and food service contracts as they come up for renewal.

NEMS-V is currently being updated to coincide with nutrition criteria from
Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations and is under review by Center for Training and Research Translation (Center TRT) as a practice-tested intervention.

Check out the NEMS-V website ( for the following recently added resources:

  • Healthy Choices Calculator phone and tablet applications
  • Videos to encourage vendor participation (5 minutes) and worksite participation (10 minutes) in healthy vending
  • Success stories from 2013 mini grant recipients

 "I have come to realize that healthy vending takes commitment at multiple levels - the worksite, the "champion intervener", the vendor AND the consumer.  As Joel Kimmons from CDC often says - our goal is not just to get healthy options in the vending machines, rather to have healthy options purchased from the machines." ~ Carol Voss, MEd, RD, LD, one of the co-investigators for NEMS-V