2005 Essay Contest:
Healthy Choices in School Vending Machines

2005 Essay Contest Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2005 essay contest. The subject of the contest was “Healthy Choices in School Vending Machines.” We received 215 entries from around the state. An independent panel of judges chose the five top essays.

First Place: $750
Steven Connel, Madill Public Schools/12th Grade

Second Place: $500
Mark Donaldson, Holland Hall Upper School/Tulsa/12th Grade

Honorable Mention: $250 each
Kaylynne Canady, Perry High School/11th Grade

Zack Stoycoff, Inola High School/11th Grade

Peter J. Housewright, Sapulpa High School/11th Grade

The Kerr Center invites all junior and senior high school students in the state of Oklahoma to participate in an essay contest. The subject of the contest is “Healthy Choices in School Vending Machines.”

Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of obesity in the entire nation. The health of our citizens and especially our students are being put in danger by our dietary decisions and sedentary lifestyles. Students learn their eating habits early, and those habits often carry on into adulthood where health concerns become even more prevalent with high incidents of stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease being linked with obesity.

One place to start in changing dietary habits in our youth is in the nutrition that is available at schools. School cafeterias are required to follow federal and state guidelines for child nutrition. But, often students choose snacks and empty calories out of vending machines instead of eating a balanced meal at school. Currently schools receive a considerable amount of income from lucrative contracts with soda and snack vendors. This income is used in many schools to supplement extracurricular activities as well as to fill in funding gaps that have occurred in these economically-stressed times. However, everyone must balance the interest in producing a revenue stream with the importance of providing healthy and nutritious choices for student selection in vending machines.

Contestants should weigh the benefits involved in providing students with healthy alternatives in vending machines against the issues involved in providing empty calories that may be attractive to students, but may cause future health problems. Contestants should consider potential barriers to providing healthy alternatives, and offer solutions to overcome those barriers.

This essay contest is designed to include young people in a thoughtful discussion of solutions and current challenges facing nutrition advocates in our state. The winning essays will focus on the issues and potential benefits involved in increasing the quality of nutritional choices available in schools. The arguments and ideas in each essay should be well developed. Essayists are asked to include their own ideas and convictions, as well as relevant research which could include interviews of other students.

The contest will begin on February 11, 2005, and all essays must be addressed to the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture and received in the Kerr Center's office by 5:00 p.m., March 30, 2005. Winners will be announced on May 6, 2005. GRAND PRIZE is a cash award of $750.00; 1st Runner up is a cash award of $500.00; and three awards of $250.00 will be given for Honorable Mentions. Winning essays may be published in the Kerr Center's newsletter, which is mailed to approximately 7,000 people quarterly or posted on www.kerrcenter.com.

For further information regarding the 2005 Essay Contest, you may contact Anita Poole at apoole@kerrcenter.com or by calling 918-647-9123.


1. All essays must address the stated target topic.
2. Maximum length of an essay is 1,000 words while minimum length of an accepted essay is 800 words. Any essays that are submitted that do not conform to these requirements will result in disqualification without exception. The Kerr Center reserves the right to edit the winning essays prior to publication in the Kerr Center’s newsletter.
3. All children and families of Kerr Center employees are excluded from the competition.
4. The essays will be evaluated by an independent committee and will be judged on specific criteria. The Criteria for judging will be, the development of ideas, overall use of good writing skills, attention to details and facts, the preciseness of presentation and the emotional responses evoked by the essays.
5. All essays should be typed and double spaced with a standard readable font.
6. All essays should include a title page that contains the participant’s name, address, school, grade, paper title and word count.
7. Each work must be original, and all quotes from other sources must be documented either in the body of the paper or in footnotes or endnotes. You are not limited only to the resources provided, but remember, plagiarism will result in disqualification from the contest.
8. All essays become the property of the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
9. Recommended resources include books, magazines, news media, school personnel, and personal contact with individuals either involved with agriculture or an interest therein.
10. Entries should be sent to Anita Poole, Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, P. O. Box 588, Poteau, OK 74953. Inquiries may be made to 918-647-9123.
11. Have fun, and remember ideas that you develop today may make a significant impact on the world of tomorrow.

Hints for Writing a Winning Essay

Persuasive writing is a style in which the writer is trying to convince the reader to agree about an issue that has more than one side. To write in the persuasive style, a writer must:

  • acknowledge there are two sides to every controversial issue;
  • list an arrange arguments in a logical manner; and
  • refute the arguments of the opposing side.

Persuasive writing uses different techniques such as analogies, examples, definitions, compare/contrast, cause/effect and classification. If you have any questions about any of these techniques, please feel free to speak to your English teacher or other writing professionals.
Remember to write a balanced paper, organization is key. One way to organize your thoughts is to first develop an outline. Papers that are persuasive and well organized have a better chance at winning this contest.


“Healthy Choices in School Vending Machines”
2005 Essay Contest

The following list of potential resources is not intended to be exhaustive or exclusive. Essay contest participants are encouraged to do further research to support the arguments presented in their papers. The resources list provided was developed in part by executing a search on the Internet for “school vending machines.”


Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.

www.NOWFoods.com “UC Researchers Find Farm-to-School Programs Shift Students’ Diets.”

www.billingsgazette.com “More Colleges Buying Food From Local Farmers.”

www.unc.edu/news/news@unc.edu “U.S. Soft Drink Consumption Grew 135% since 1977, Boosting Obesity” by David Williamson.

www.cspinet.org/new/200405111.html “Dispensing Junk.”

www.ncsl.org/programs/health/vending.htm “Vending Machines in Schools.”


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