Beverages Sold in Public Schools

Some Encouraging Progress, Additional Improvements are Needed

Leading health authorities recommend that all foods and beverages offered to students at school contribute to a healthy diet. As directed by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to update national nutrition standards for competitive foods and beverages—those served or sold in schools outside of the federally reimbursable school meals program. Competitive beverages are commonly sold in vending machines, à la carte cafeteria lines, school stores and snack bars. The forthcoming standards have the potential to improve the nutrition landscape in schools, which would affect tens of millions of students nationwide.

This brief by Bridging the Gap, summarizes two recent articles published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, that examined the availability of competitive beverages sold in U.S. public elementary, middle and high schools. Data are drawn from surveys of nationally representative samples for five school years, from 2006–07 to 2010–11. The findings identify areas of greatest progress and areas where additional efforts are needed.

Bridging the Gap is a nationally recognized research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation dedicated to improving the understanding of how policies and environmental factors affect diet, physical activity and obesity among youth, as well as youth tobacco use.