Friday, September 17, 2010

New Research on the Negative Effects of Vending Machines in Schools

The results from a new study published in Journal of School Health which assesses competitive food and beverage use among students in schools and the nutrient intakes derived from these competitive foods are staggering!

About 22% of students in grades 1 through 12 buy food in vending machines each day – and these purchases add an average of 253 calories to their diets, accumulating an extra 14 pounds per child per school year!!

According to the study, vending machines are found in 16% of U.S. elementary schools, 52% of middle schools and 88% of high schools allowing these energy-dense competitive foods, such as sweetened beverages, snack chips, and candy, to be accessible to students in 97% of US schools! The effects of the poor nutritional snacks are detrimental to children’s diets. As the study indicates, kids who utilized vending machines consumed more sugar and less dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate compared to those who abstained.

With results like these, it’s unthinkable that school wellness programs do not adequately address the quality of food and beverages sold in competitive food sources. Guidelines for the nutritional quality of items available are essential to ensure kids are getting the proper daily nutrients. By selling unhealthy options, children become at risk for poor nutrition by choosing these items over a USDA meal or a meal packed from home.

One reason schools are slow to change is because serving healthier options can come at a cost for the school; and in this economic environment, not all are willing to make the change. It is often the case that healthier snack options bring in less money to the school distract than deals with big name companies that sell less healthy options. With government funding for schools declining, districts are not in a rush to remove these high sources of added revenue.

To avoid the negative impact of competitive foods on your child’s diet, parents should provide plenty of healthful snacks from home to get their kids through the school day and if possible, start talking to your school about removing unhealthy options, finding alternative sources of income and getting your school involved in healthy initiatives.

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