Commercialism in U.S. Elementary and Secondary School Nutrition Environments

Trends from 2007-2012
A student buys snacks from a vending machine.

Despite decreases over time in many measures examined, school-based commercialism continues to be highly prevalent. Some commercialism measures are significantly more likely in schools with mid or low student body socioeconomic status.

The Issue:
Schools provide a desired environment for food and beverage companies, although marketed items tend to be of poor nutritional quality. This study examines national trends in student exposure to selected school-based commercialism measures from 2007 to 2012.

Key Findings

  • Food coupons were the most frequent type of commercialism among elementary schools, present in 64 percent of schools.

  • Exclusive beverage contracts were in place in 50 percent of schools attended by middle school students and 70 percent for high school students.

  • Elementary school coupons and middle and high school exclusive beverage contracts were significantly more likely in schools with mid or low student body socioeconomic status.

Conclusion:
Despite decreases over time in many measures examined, school-based commercialism continues to be highly prevalent. The researchers argue for clear and enforceable standards on nutritional content of items marketed in school settings.