Getting fresh

College sweethearts bring healthy alternatives to traditional vending machines

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Getting fresh

Byron and Donna Marshall

Photo by: DOROTHY KOZLOWSKI

The Baxter Street hill can be a miserable hike for freshmen at UGA, but Byron and Donna Marshall remember it fondly.

“We first met on the hill between Brumby and Russell,” Byron says. “We both grew up in Columbus, Ga., and we knew a lot of the same people, but we had never met.”

Byron (BBA ’97) and Donna (BS ’98) got married in the summer of 2002 after Byron finished grad school at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The couple also lived in New York and Princeton, N.J., where Donna attended Rutgers University for grad school, before moving back to Athens to be closer to family.

Donna worked in research at the food and nutrition lab at UGA, but after giving birth to their second child, she decided to find a job where she could work from home. She read about Fresh! Healthy Vending and saw it as a great opportunity to make a difference.

Fresh! Healthy Vending works like a franchise where people can buy the rights to an area and a minimum of 10 machines. Donna and Byron own the rights to Clarke, Oconee and Gwinnett counties. Their first 10 machines are in such places as schools, dance studios and the YMCA.

“It really depends on how fast you want to go,” says Byron, who is a management consultant at McKinsey & Company in Atlanta. “We are adding more machines. One will be at River Club Apartments [in Athens], and we are trying to discuss getting one at the hospital here. We would love to be at UGA!”

There are over 600 products to select for the machines, all of them preservative, wheat and gluten free and processed in facilities that are free of peanuts and soy products. The machines can include cold products, like yogurt, smoothies and milk, as well as snacks like baked chips, pretzels and yogurt bars. Prices range from about $1 to $2.25.

“It’s really important to start kids with good eating habits,” says Donna, who runs the business. “More children are diagnosed with Type II diabetes than adults. It’s scary.”

“Continuing to give healthy options for kids and change their eating habits is the most important thing we can do with this job.”