Research and Resources on Snack Foods and Beverages in Schools

A collection of research briefs, journal articles and online resources that provide information regarding competitive foods and beverages in school.

    • April 19, 2012

Foods and beverages sold in schools--in vending machines, school stores and cafeteria à la carte lines--are sometimes called competitive foods because they compete with meals for students' spending. The resources below, from RWJF grantees and partners, provide a large body of research examining how healthy or unhealthy these foods and drinks are, how easy it is for students to access them and what impact the sale of such items has on schools' budgets.


Resources from RWJF Grantees


The resources below from our grantees cover a range of topics related to competitive foods.

Student Access to Competitive Foods in Elementary Schools

Nearly half of U.S. elementary school students could buy unhealthy snacks--such as cookies, cakes and baked goods--outside of school meals during the 2009-10 school year. Unhealthy snack foods were strikingly more prevalent in schools in the South, where obesity rates are the highest in the nation. (Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Abstract available to all; subscription required to view full article).

Feb. 6, 2012


Study on Effect of Banning All Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in Middle Schools on Students' Purchasing and Consumption Habits

Policies that banned all sugar-sweetened beverages in school reduced middle school students' consumption of these beverages while in school, but not overall. (Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Abstract available to all; subscription required to view full article.)

Nov. 7, 2011


Study on Effect of School District Policy Change on Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Among High School Students

Boston high school students reported a decrease in daily consumption of sweetened beverages, both in-school and out-of-school, after a district-wide ban on in-school sales of sweetened beverages went into effect. (Preventing Chronic Disease.)

July 1, 2011


Study on Wide Availability of High-Calorie Beverages in U.S. Elementary Schools

Almost half of the nation's public elementary school students could buy unhealthy beverages such as sodas, sports drinks and higher-fat milk during the 2008-09 school year. (Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Abstract available to all; subscription required to view full article.)

Nov. 1, 2010


Research Review on Effect of Competitive Foods on Students' Dietary Intake & Obesity Risk

Competitive foods, including many unhealthy options, are widely available in U.S. public schools. Research suggests that students have better diets when unhealthy food is not sold in school venues in competition with the federal breakfast and lunch programs. (Health Affairs.)

March 1, 2010


Surveys of School Policies and Practices to Promote Health and Prevent Obesity

These reports from Bridging the Gap examine practices that affect nutrition, physical activity and obesity prevention for tens of millions of students. Portions of these reports describe key findings among public elementary and secondary schools, including the availability of snack foods beverages and à la carte lines. They also describe policy opportunities to regulate such foods at the federal, state, district and school levels.



Study on Geographic Disparities in State and District Policies Targeting Youth Obesity

Competitive food policies were stronger in the two Census divisions with the highest youth obesity prevalence, both in the Southern United States. (American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Abstract available to all; subscription required to view full article).

Oct. 1, 2011


Model Policy for Water Access in Schools

By providing drinking water as an alternative to soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, schools can promote children's health overall and play an important role in the fight against childhood obesity. This is a set of model goals and actions for schools to incorporate into their wellness policies to help promote access to free, safe drinking water. (PDF)

Oct. 1, 2010


Report on School District Wellness Policies Three Years after the Federal Mandate

In the 2008-09 school year, school district wellness policies remained weak and often were not aligned with national recommendations for nutrition or physical activity. Guidelines for competitive foods and beverages were especially lax and many did not comply with requirements of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004.

Aug. 10, 2010




Issue Brief on Obesity Prevention Policies for Middle and High Schools

A review of state- and district level policies showed that middle- and high-school students were allowed more opportunities to purchase junk food and unhealthy beverages than younger students. Adolescents consumed the least amount of milk and the largest amount of sugary beverages, yet states and districts consistently eased the regulations for unhealthy beverages when addressing middle and high schools. (PDF)

May 1, 2010


Resources from the Field


The resources below from others in the field provide information regarding snack foods and beverages in schools.

Alliance School Beverage Guidelines Final Report

An independent evaluation released in 2010 found that virtually all schools and school districts measured complied with the School Beverage Guidelines established by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Dr Pepper Snapple Group (formerly Cadbury Schweppes), and the American Beverage Association. The evaluation also reported an 88 percent reduction in beverage calories shipped to schools since 2004, due to overall beverage sales declines and changes to the mix of beverages available to students. (PDF)

March 10, 2010


Brief on Impact of Changing School Food Standards on Revenue

A review of four research studies and three state-based reports showed that selling snack foods that meet improved nutrition standards did not result in revenue loss in six out of seven studies; that there was increased participation in the National School Lunch Program after healthier competitive foods were introduced; and that some school revenue from competitive foods increased after improved nutrition standards were implemented. (PDF)

Sept. 1, 2009