Recently, the hospital where I volunteer removed all sugary soft drinks and candy bars from the vending machines located throughout the building. Several years ago, they stopped selling sugary soft drinks in the cafeteria, although I've noticed that they carry little 8 ounce cans of Coke occasionally. Of course they offer juices and milk (including chocolate milk) along with iced tea, coffee, and diet sodas, but if you want a real Coke or Dr. Pepper, you have to come to the gift shop - we have a refrigerator full of all kinds of soft drinks - some diet, but most are your standard sugary drinks. We also sell a variety of snacks, including candy. The gift shop is jokingly referred to as the black market because of this.
Now, I'm not one to judge when it comes to whatever our customers choose to buy. We are in a hospital, after all, and there are a lot of stressful situations that staff and patients are dealing with, and as I know from personal experience, sugar can help to calm you, to momentarily relieve some anxiety, to soothe when things are bad. Never was that more apparent to me than when my mother was diagnosed with cancer six years ago - I'd be doing OK in dealing with all that I was hearing, and then suddenly I would feel overwhelmed and that's when I discovered the magical powers of Coconut M&M's. I swear, they got me through some really rough times. I no longer drink alcohol, so that might have helped in lieu of the sugar, but any case, it's not always appropriate to have a glass of wine, so candy was a better choice for me, regardless.
I can't tell you how many times a staff member has come in and bought 10 candy bars for their department, citing a stressful day. Other times it's been 10 or more bottles of soda, for the same reason. Working in healthcare is not always the most joyous thing, and for every happy event like a baby being born, the staff are caring for the sick patients, and while they are very, very good at their jobs, it still is emotionally taxing in certain situations.
Then there's the families of our patients. A couple of years ago, I had a frustrated father ask me where he could get a Dr. Pepper - he'd been to the cafeteria and saw that there were none available, so came to the gift shop next. I was so pleased to be able to open the fridge and hand him one; apparently his son had been in the hospital for several days and was finally able to eat, and his first request was for a Dr. Pepper and his dad was bound and determined to get that for him. It's not a big thing, and yet it's everything in that moment. And now, if that moment isn't between 9:30 am and 4:30 pm Monday through Friday, when the gift shop is open, people will have to leave the hospital to search out their sugary solace, because they can't even get something from the vending machines.
And I think that's wrong.
I understand that a hospital should promote good health, and have healthy options available - and this one does. But they also should not be the arbiters of what they deem healthy, because a bottle full of chemicals, aka diet soda, is no healthier than a bottle full of sugar, aka regular soda. And sometimes, you just need that swig of soda or that bite of chocolate to get you through a stressful situation. Don't take that away from people.