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Carrots flying out of vending machines in Ohio

Marketplace Staff Sep 22, 2010

Carrots flying out of vending machines in Ohio

Marketplace Staff Sep 22, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: Getting kids to eat their veggies is a challenge even when they’re little and you can keep an eye on them at home. Once they get older — into high school, say — and can pick and choose what they eat? Forget it.

That’s why the news out of Mason, Ohio, caught our eye. There’s a new vending machine in the local high school, which is great. Except that it only sells baby carrots. Fifty cents a bag. And apparently they’re selling like hotcakes. Really healthy hotcakes.

We’ve got Tracey Carson on the line from the Mason School District. Tracy, good to have you here.

Tracey CARSON:So nice to be here, Kai.

RYSSDAL: How did it come to pass that the Mason schools have carrots in their vending machines?

CARSON: Well you know, our families, like a lot of families, are concerned about what their kids are eating, and so we were very excited to be approached by a bunch of carrot farmers, which is how farms is being known, their ad agency that was working with them. We thought this is great, real win-win.

RYSSDAL: Those ads are pretty cool actually, they’re up on the website. You’ve got heavy metal:

Metal voice in advertisement: Baby. Carrots. Baby carrots!

CARSON: There’s something for everyone, for sure.

RYSSDAL: Now, let me ask you this: are kids buying them?

CARSON: You know what, they are. They’ve only been in for a couple of days, but we looked and they’re kind of flying off the shelf. Baby carrots have been in our cafeterias for a while, but somehow when you get to go to the vending machine, it just makes it a little more cool.

RYSSDAL: And it’s probably worth pointing out that the other vending machines don’t work during school hours, right? No sodas.

CARSON: That’s right.

RYSSDAL: So the market monopoly kind of helps them out.

CARSON: Exactly.

RYSSDAL: You have an entrepreneurial class in your high school, where these kids worked on the marketing campaign?

CARSON: We do. We’ve had, for probably almost seven years now, an “Entrepreneurs in Action” class. So when we got wind of this, we thought, “The only way we’ll do this is if our students get to have this great educational experience along with it.” So that class is divided in teams, and for the next six weeks, they’re coming up with their own marketing plans for baby carrots. And whichever team sells the most will be the big winner. But even the bigger winner is they’re going to donate all of the profits to charity, and they’re looking into a couple of eyesight charities. Of course, carrots having a little bit of a connection with vision.

RYSSDAL: What about parents — they’ve gotta be thrilled, right?

CARSON: You know, absolutely. Our families are having that same conversation that families across the country are having. As a mom myself, it’s something that I want, for my child to choose healthy options. And it sure makes it easier when those options seem a little more tantalizing.

RYSSDAL: Are your kids in high school? Do they actually have the opportunity to buy these carrots?

CARSON: I do have a freshman in high school and he came home yesterday and asked me, “Mom, did you know we have carrots in a vending machine in the high school?” I said, “Absolutely.” And he thought that was pretty neat. Of course, he never has cash on him, he’s only a freshman, so he needs to ask mom for 50 cents.

RYSSDAL: I’m going to tell on you a little bit here, you were talking to my producer before we got on the phone: You did not eat healthy today.

CARSON: I did not! I have to admit that a carrot vending machine at my office might be a good thing as well.

RYSSDAL: Tracey Carson, she’s the public information officer at Mason School District in Mason, Ohio. Tracy, thanks a lot.

CARSON: Thanks, it’s my pleasure.

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