Study: Access to Soda Declines in U.S. Schools

Students have significantly less access to soda in schools than they did four years ago, but their access to other sugary drinks still remains high
by | August 8, 2012

While middle and high school students in the United States have significantly less access to soda during their school day than they did four years ago, their access to other sugary drinks still remains high, according to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

One in four public high school students -- down from more than half in 2006-2007 -- could purchase soda from a vending machine, a la carte at the school cafeteria or from the school store during the 2010-2011 school year, the study found. Middle schoolers access also declined substantially: 13 percent during the 2010-2011 year, down from 27 percent in 2006-2007.

Despite the increased difficulty in getting soda, though, 63 percent of middle school students and 88 percent of high school students could still buy some kind of sugary drink, particularly sports drinks, which leading researchers have concluded should only be consumed by those engaging in intense physical activities, according to the study, and therefore should not be sold in schools.

The authors concluded that, while the reduction in students' soda access represented improvement, there was more work to be done.

“Our study shows that, although schools are making progress, far too many students still are surrounded by a variety of unhealthy beverages at school,” Yvonne Terry-McElrath, a researcher from the University of Michigan and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Reducing access to unhealthy food and drinks in schools has become a focus of public health advocates hoping to combat present and prevent future child obesity. As Governing previously reported, a recent study by the Health Impact Project and the Kids' Safe and Healthful Food Project concluded that stricter nutrition standards could significantly improve young people's health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to issue new school nutrition standards in the near future.

The study analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of more than 1,400 middle schools and 1,500 high schools and was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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