Trends in Competitive Venue Beverage Availability

Sweetened drinks are a primary source of added dietary sugar for children. Drinks obtained at school in “competitive venues”—outside of the federally reimbursable school meal program—significantly contribute to student caloric intake.

These researchers surveyed school food service personnel to collect annual data from schools over two periods, 2006–2007 and 2010–2011.

They found that 91 percent of middle school students and 99 percent of high school students attended schools where competitive beverages were sold, typically in vending machines, a la carte or in snack bars. This is less, however, than the period four years earlier when the availability rates were 97 percent for middle school and 100 percent for high school.

Approved beverages include waters, 100% fruit juices and fat-free/low-fat milks. Sports drinks with less than 66 calories per 8 ounces are currently approved for high school students. Unapproved drinks across all grades include regular soft drinks, high-calorie non-100% fruit drinks and higher-fat milks.

For high school students, availability of regular soft drinks dropped from 54 percent in the earlier time period to 25 percent. Sports drinks, however, showed no significant decline, changing from 90 percent availability during the earlier survey period to 83 percent in the later period.