Elementary schools are less likely to sell unhealthy snack foods and drinks
if school districts or states have rules that limit the sale of such products, a
new study finds.
However, more than three-quarters of public elementary schools in the United
States are located in a state or school district that does not limit the sale of
items such as sugary drinks, salty snacks, candy or high-fat milk, according to
For the study, researchers examined the types of foods and drinks offered by
schools nationwide between 2008-2009 and 2010-2011. Candy, ice cream, cookies
and other sweets were sold by about 32% of schools in areas where both school
district or state policies limited the sugar content of snack foods, compared
with 43% of schools where there were no such policies.
Ice cream was sold by just over 10% of schools in areas where the state and
school district limited the fat content of snack foods, compared with about 21%
of schools where there was no such policy. Cookies, cakes and other high-fat
baked goods were sold by nearly 12% of schools in areas with such a policy and
by about 25% of schools in areas with no such policy, the investigators
In the case of sugary drinks, school district policies had more impact than
state laws: Sugar-sweetened beverages were sold by close to 4% of schools when
school districts banned them, compared with 13% of schools when there was no
school district ban.
However, the sale of sugary beverages by schools was not affected by state
bans - especially in the South - where sugary drinks were sold by one-quarter of
schools in states that banned the sale of the drinks in schools.
The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its
national research program, Bridging the Gap.
"We found that states and districts can influence the types of snacks and
drinks sold at school," study lead author Jamie Chriqui, an investigator at
Bridging the Gap, said in a foundation news release. "These policies can go a
long way in helping kids have healthy choices during the school day, but more
states and districts need to get strong policies on the books to have a
meaningful impact nationally."
However, Chriqui and colleagues found that many states and school districts
do not have specific nutritional rules for school snacks and drinks. Among US
- 78% were in a district and state that did not limit the sodium (salt)
content of snacks or ban high-fat milk.
- 77% were in a district and state that allowed the sale of candy.
- 75% were in a district and state that did not prohibit the sale of sports
drinks, sodas and sugar-sweetened fruit drinks.
- 58% were in a district and state that did not limit the sugar content of
"Too many of our nation's schools are still selling junk foods and sugary
drinks to young children," Chriqui said.
"But the good news is that this is the first generation of children to be
enrolled in school at a time when educators and policymakers are focused on
preventing childhood obesity - that's why it's so critical to enact or change
policies that make schools healthier places for students," she added in the news
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about childhood