Texas Official Launches Probe into School Vending Machine Contracts

Vending machines carrying sweets and soda are hard for young people to resist. But one political leader has filed open record requests with every district, demanding copies of their vending contracts. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs says she wants to know who benefits from candy and soda sales. But in many districts, it's not the suppliers who will lose if the machines disappear.

Students attending Lindale Junior High can get their favorite snacks with just a few quarters at lunch. And while state leaders are demanding to know who benefits from the sales of such treats, school officials say its the students who are benefactors.

"The money goes back to us and to the stuff that we're participating in," says Luke Lambert, an eight grader in Lindale. The district's Superintendent Richard Teddar and Junior High Principal Jamie Holder say all of the sales go toward student rewards, field trips and incentives.

The issue has left principals like Jamie Holder in limbo. On one hand, he was happy to exchange carbonated drinks for healthier options. Yet,on the other hand, the change caused his school half of its supplemental funding. The reason--many students stopped buying from the machines when soda items were removed.

"I've noticed a significant price increase, so that's made me not want to buy it," says eighth grader Blake Julian. "Everybody has their own ideas about what they want to eat. I don't think we really are just being marketed to or played by the companies or anything."

With state budget cuts looming over educators, the cushion of vending machine dollars becomes even more attractive.

"That's really a principal savings account, so that's a scary thought to know that your student population is rising, but your savings account is dwindling."

Even though Lindale ISD sees the benefits of the extra money, superintendent Richard Teddar and Jamie Holder with the Junior High say they support what the state is trying to do with students and nutrition.

Combs says the results of her probe will be revealed later this year.