This article was originally published by News at Northeastern and written by Khalida Sarwari.
Yasmina Khashoggi wanted to eat healthy, but like many people, was tempted by junk food everywhere she went. At train depots and airports, she would grab a bag of chips. With no time to spare in the mornings before school, she would reach for a donut. When she was studying late at night, she found herself glazing over a vending machine stocked with the usual assortment of pretzels, cheese crackers, and candy bars.
She started feeling as though she were sacrificing her health for convenience.
“Every time I ended up at a vending machine, I found myself wishing that it was filled with Whole Foods-type snacks, you know, healthy snacks,” the Northeastern graduate student says. “I felt like my friends and I, we wanted to be healthy and we tried to be healthy, but out of convenience we weren’t.”
A study that examined weight changes in students over the course of four years of college showed that 70 percent of them put on pounds by graduation, some as much as 37 pounds, and that the percentage of students who were found to be overweight increased from 18 to 31 percent. This phenomenon is also known as the Freshman 15.
Taking matters into her own hands, Khashoggi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business entrepreneurship and is studying journalism at Northeastern, started contemplating how the ideal vending machine would look.
She envisioned a machine that offers healthy snacks for people with various dietary needs and one that advertises the nutritional value of products upfront; a machine that features a touchscreen and offers alternative payment methods to meet the needs of the average 21st-century consumer.
“Our society as a whole is evolving into becoming more health-conscious and more conscious of the ingredients that we’re putting in our bodies, but the convenient options haven’t been evolving with our time,” Khashoggi says. “Even traditional vending machines that claim to sell you healthy products, it’s the fake healthy products. It’s just nothing that’s truly healthy that’s being sold.”
Wanting to change this, she started her own company, Evolve Vending, which offers snacks such as coconut water, kombucha, matcha green tea, coconut chips, and chocolate-covered bananas. The items are priced between $1 and $4.
“I came up with the idea of a sleek, touchscreen, and cashless, healthy vending machine so that convenience didn’t have to come at the price of being unhealthy,” she says, adding that the effort was self-funded.
In February, the first machine was installed in CambridgeSide, a shopping center in East Cambridge. She unveiled a second machine at Afterhours in the Curry Student Center at Northeastern.
“I’d like to have a few more at Northeastern and then at every school in Boston,” she said. “Even though it may be a niche market now, it is something that is missing at many schools, and I think it’s something that will be well-received.
Next up: train stations and airports.
“I do hope to expand,” Khashoggi said. “Once I graduate, I plan on going into this full-time for sure.”