KU concessions is offering free advice to consumers interested in making healthy choices when shopping at campus vending machines.
Jon Blumenthal didn't let a pesky red dot the size of a dime influence his decision.
He dropped a handful of coins in a vending machine in the Kansas University law school and, without hesitation, made a selection.
Of course, he didn't go for one of those fat- or cholesterol-free rice cakes. He ignored a bag of Farley's Fruit Snack.
On this day, Blumenthal opted for a Hershey bar.
"I try to eat the most fattening foods I can," said Blumenthal, a second-year law student from Lawrence.
Bob Derby, manager of KU concessions, said the contents of the university's 50 or so vending machines have come under scrutiny of the Heart Smart Snack Vending program.
KU is the first university to participate in the program directed by Heart Smart Vending International, a Scottsdale, Ariz., organization which serves 50 vending operators in 20 states and 500 restaurants in 44 states.
Each item declared free of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol by Heart Smart is identified by a sticker at the front of each column in the vending machine.
Of the 300 products sold in the machines on KU's campus, a dozen were declared fat free.
"KU concessions realizes that our students, faculty and staff are concerned with the health and nutritional aspects of vended snacks," Derby said.
The impact on students' lives could be huge, given that annual sales from vending machines on campus topped $1 million the past two years.
"When we ventured into this it wasn't really with the intention of increasing volume," Derby said. "It was more of a service to the university community to make it a little easier to identify some of the healthy products."
In the law school, only two of 40 items for sale qualified for the Heart Smart sticker. The healthy snacks were Rold Gold Pretzels and Fruit Snacks. Pretzels were popular here, with consecutive customers buying a bag.
"There may be more fat-free snacks in there in the future, depending on the demand," he said.
Under the program, KU paid Heart Smart a $295 fee for an analysis of the snacks sold in campus vending machines. The assessment is based on wrapper labeling, which can't be read by a consumer in advance of purchase.
"The disadvantage of vending machines is that you can't read the ingredients when it's in the machine," Derby said.
Derby, who has cut his snack food consumption over the years, said he didn't think the program would reduce sales of fat-laden foods.