The University of Wisconsin’s many vending machines may be responsible for students’ between class snacks, but they are also responsible for up to 6 percent of the Union’s overall budget.[/media-credit]

Be it candy, gum or soda, UW brought in almost $500,000 in profit through vending last year, but where that money goes is a little more complicated.

Who gets the vending commissions, and what they go toward, is part of a little-known contract that distributes the money between the Wisconsin Union, UW Housing, UW Extension and the Wisconsin Historical Society.

During the last fiscal year, UW made $451,216 from its contract with Wright Vending, recently purchased by Canteen Vending, which is 38.8 percent of the money the machines on campus generate every year.

UW also made $46,622 from its Randolph-Sheppard Department of Workforce Development Business Enterprise Program, which is 27.56 percent of the total money those machines made this year. Randolph-Sheppard is a federally mandated program to use vending companies serviced by visually-impaired employees.

Bulk of vending money goes to Union

For the fiscal month ending Feb. 28 of this year, UW vending money totaled $30,461.90.

Most of that money, nearly $27,000, went to the Union. UW Housing took in around $3,000, UW Extension received around $450 and the Historical Society got $299.

The vending money accounts for 6 percent of the Union’s overall budget, said Lori Voss, a procurement agent at UW Purchasing. The money supports programs including the Distinguished Lecture Series, music on the Terrace, art shows, meeting facility maintenance and hundreds of student programs annually, according to internal email correspondence from 2004.

It’s common for unions at other peer institutions to use the revenue generated from services such as vending to offset costs.

Vending commissions contracts at UW-Green Bay are handled on-site by the UW-Green Bay Union, said Linda Dupois of UW-Green Bay Purchasing.

At UW-Milwaukee, vending money goes into the Student Affairs budget, which is in charge of the union, auxiliary services, the child care center, career development and athletics, as well as other student services, Cindy Wirtz, auxiliary services financial manager, said.

No longer a free-for-all

UW’s vending contract with Wright Vending, dates back to 1986.

The Chancellor’s Office approved of the distribution of vending commissions as of 2004.

Although vending at UW is handled today through a central contract and revenue is distributed accordingly, vending used to be more of a free-for-all, said Dave Brinkmeier, a procurement agent at UW Purchasing.

“There was a point in time when there were many departments running their own vending and campus management had concerns with safety (insurance), how the money was collected and how it was spent,” Brinkmeier said in an email.

To make sure all contracts were awarded through an open process overseen by UW Purchasing, the Union took over managing the contract “to ensure that the best interests of the campus were included in any contract,” Brinkmeier said.