This study by Bridging the Gap shows that policies at both the district and state level have the potential to reduce the availability of unhealthy snack foods and beverages in elementary schools.
This study is the first to examine the association between state laws, school district policies, and the availability of unhealthy snack foods and beverages in U.S. public elementary schools. Researchers assessed the types of foods and beverages offered in vending machines, à la carte lines, and stores in a nationwide sample of schools between 2008–09 and 2010–11.
- Elementary schools were less likely to sell candy, ice cream, sugar-sweetened beverages, cookies, cakes, and other unhealthy snacks when states or school districts had policies that limited the sale of such items.
- More than three-quarters of U.S. elementary schools were located in a state and/or district that did not specifically limit sales of sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, salty snacks, or high-fat milk.
- Limits on fats in food items were most prevalent in elementary schools, followed by limits on sugars, candy, and sodium.
Currently the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working to improve its rule on school snack foods and beverages. The findings from this study confirm the need for strong federal standards because so many states and districts do not have specific nutritional guidelines for school snacks and beverages.
Bridging the Gap, a research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, collects annual data on state laws, district policies, and elementary school-level practices related to school snack foods and beverages.