As I sat there staring at a sign that read "Out of Order" plastered over a behemoth of a vending machine, I had to laugh at its accuracy. Upon first glance this might not seem like anything out of the ordinary. And sadly, it isn't. This is what has become the norm when it comes to what many people consider to be food. The "Out of Order" bit (besides the sign stating the machine really was out of order) was the fact this was the only source of "food" or drink while I was recently in a hospital A&E waiting room. Let me give you a quick rundown of what my options were when I tried to buy a bottle of water. The first two rows contained bag after bag full of nutrient packed goodness otherwise known as Golden Wonder Cheese n' Onion, Ready Salted, Salt & Vinegar and Smoky Bacon crisps. Second row started off with vitamin laden Nacho Cheese Doritos, Big Bang Spicy Thai and Chargrilled Steak Rough Cuts, followed by Mini Cheese crackers and yet another pack of bizarrely flavored Golden Wonders, just in case the first four wholefood flavors didn't catch my fancy.
Moving on to the next two rows was a super healthy array of Mars Bars, Twix, Kit Kat, Kit Kat Chunky, Mini Kit Kat, Snickers, Yorkie, Tracker (wha???) and a sugar coated, I'm sorry yogurt topped Alpine bar. The latter I can only assume was thrown in to appeal to those who prefer not to have their Type 2 Diabetes chocolate flavored. Finally, the last two racks catered to those in need of a lukewarm drink to wash down the aforementioned superfoods. Now here I was really in luck because instead of water or even juice, there were endless bottles of Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Cherry Coke (didn't they discontinue that back in 1998?), DR Pepper and Fanta. Oh, and just in case I didn't like bottles, I need not despair, the final row had my back as it readily provided the exact same as the above except in the canned variety.
Ok, I get it, people like their imitation flavored, refined sugar laced foods and hydrogenated fats. Hell I even enjoy a cupcake now and again if the occasion warrants. Now although I don't expect kale chips, seaweed crackers and coconut water to be on offer, the fact there was not even a pack of nuts, a single seed, fruit or even a plain old bottle of water thrown into this motley mix of artificial drudgery is beyond unacceptable to me in this day and age.
It is completely OUT OF ORDER that our hospitals, a place that should be a champion of health and well being, a place that should be the first to educate the masses and promote healthy eating and conscious living, are encouraging the consumption of the very things that cause a large number of the diseases they are treating in the first place. It is completely out of order that while people are waiting to be seen by a doctor, presumably because they are not in the greatest of health to begin with, there is nothing on offer to consume what could even be remotely considered healthy or aid in the healing process. It is out of order that the very place that exists solely to mend the broken, save the sick and help those in need of helping should be so unconsciously offering "foods" that we now know for a fact are so immensely harmful to not just our physical but also our mental and emotional health. If food is the problem then logic would state that food is also the solution. It has now become such an epic crisis (and not just in the UK ) that it is unacceptable that our hospitals aren't rushing to lead by example.
Days later I was still so disturbed that I wrote a letter of complaint outlining most of the above. Not so much scolding the department in charge but genuinely wanting to know what I, and my health retreat Yeotown, could do to help jump start a shift towards healthier options. With whom could we speak with? What could we do as concerned (and fed up!) citizens to help affect real change? I have yet to receive a response but it will be interesting to hear what they say if and when they do respond.
As a start, I'm going to create a hashtag campaign #outoforderUK to spread awareness and attempt to get our hospitals to make this a matter of serious concern. Please join me and share if you have any insights or solutions on how we can tackle this issue!
Meanwhile here's hoping more and more of these health destroying machines continue to stay "Out of Order" until we can find a better way.