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Bacon Vending Machine Takes Over Campus By: Lesley Shanahan

The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences has countless ways to engage students with the agricultural industry: internships, career fairs, immersive curricula, to name a few. Bacon, however, doesn’t always come to mind.

Recently, the most buzzworthy effort to tie CFAES students to the industry has been the partnership between the Meat Science Club and the Ohio Pork Council to develop the bacon vending machine.

A LEGENDARY CAMPAIGN

Meghann Winters, communications coordinator at the Ohio Pork Council, discussed the vending machine project, which was designed to serve as an educational tool while also serving as a fundraiser for the Ohio State Meat Science Club. According to Winters, the idea came about as the staff discussed new promotional projects. The Ohio Pork Council uses checkoff dollars for their educational promotions. Once they found a machine, they knew they had the perfect centerpiece for a legendary campaign.

“I managed donor relations, and made sure it functioned correctly while also making it aesthetically appealing,” Winters said. She served as the students’ lead contact for the machine while it was under their care. Sarah Page, an Ohio State senior studying meat science and president of the Meat Science Club, and Jacob Parkinson, a senior meat science major and club member, managed the machine once it was placed in the Animal Science Building.

“Our job was to restock the machine when it was low and help promote it around campus,” Page said.

According to Page, the Ohio Pork Council approached the club with the bacon vending machine idea. When they mentioned the project, club members were completely on board and believed the project was “just really fun.”

Four students volunteered to manage the machine and work with the Ohio Pork Council. The machine was stocked with donated packages of bacon from Smithfield, Hormel and Sugardale. The bacon was prepared and ready to eat as packaged and sold for $1. All proceeds of bacon sales were returned to the Meat Science Club to be used for future projects.

BACON TAKES CAMPUS

After weeks prepping the media for its release, the Ohio Pork Council dropped the machine off at the Animal Science Building. Winters said they had been conducting digital advertisements in the campus area to spread the word, so they were anticipating engagement from students. The machine officially launched Dec. 4.

Page was shocked by the attention the vending machine drew.

“I figured the ag kids would love it, but there were tons of people that came over from central campus to check it out!” Page said.

According to Page, students planned on checking in three times each day, but it turned out the machine would need restocked twice as often. The bacon was so popular, they completely ran out by the weekend.

The students contacted Winters and shared the predicament on Friday, which led to a chaotic bacon shipment. Winters made last-minute arrangements to pick up product and then met the students for a late-night stocking session.

This project was led by an optimistic team, but no one predicted this level of success and popularity. Retrieving more bacon was worth it to Winters because it proved how beloved the machine was becoming.

MORE THAN JUST MEAT

Throughout this project, Ohio State students had the opportunity to actively work with the Ohio Pork Council and the three bacon donors, as well as Meat Science Club advisor and Ohio State professor, Lyda Garcia.

“As a meat science major, we try to find a niche of what people want and will pay for,” Page said.

Bacon Vending Machine Takes Over Campus

Parkinson, like Page, worked closely with Winters and Garcia to maintain the machine.

“This project was a great transition from undergrad to graduate,” Parkinson said. “I was crazy busy with the bacon vending machine and now I’m crazy busy with grad school.”

The bacon vending machine was the perfect project for a graduating senior to manage. It was fun, unique and definitely reached a niche market of bacon lovers.

The Meat Science Club plans to utilize these relationships with industry professionals to bring guest speakers to club meetings, allowing members to develop professional networks and learn more about potential future careers. Page said working in this project has provided her a new understanding of ways she can use her knowledge of meat science and make it easily digestible for the public.

Meat science students had the experience of developing a campaign and managing the campaign funds, and they can use this experience to shape their future careers.

Not only did they gain experience, they were also able to participate in a fun and unique project that will remain a discussion piece for years to come. Hopefully we have not seen the last of the bacon vending machine, and Parkinson agrees.

“I hope it comes back, it’s a cool kitschy thing for finals!”

Credits:

Created with an image by Donald Giannatti - "untitled image"

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