Impact of School District Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Policies on Student Beverage Exposure and Consumption in Middle Schools

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invests in research aimed at reducing childhood obesity. This study found direct associations between local school district policies in the state of Washington and the frequency with which students consumed sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).

Washington allows its school districts to set their own nutrition regulations, therefore, SSB policies vary across the state’s school districts. This study compared district policies regulating the availability of SSBs in middle schools. The aim of the study was to measure associations between: (a) the availability of SSBs and SSB consumption, and (b) SSB policies and SSB availability. Researchers created an SSB policy score indicating the extent to which each district limited the availability of SSBs. The study recorded SSB availability on-site, categorized beverages according to sugar content, and administered a questionnaire to gauge student SSB consumption. Data on available beverages were entered into the school nutrition environment assessment tool FoodBEAMS.

Key Findings:

  • Stronger SSB policies limited the availability of SSBs
  • Students in districts with stronger SSB policies consumed less SSBs.

This article is part of a supplement presenting a series of obesity-related studies. The findings suggest that school district policies significantly impact student health.