Vending Machines at School Impact Students' Nutrition, Study Says

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

vending machine picture

Selections in school vending machines have a direct impact on whether a student's daily food intake is balanced, a new study shows. Credit: Paul J. Richards, AFP / Getty Images

The saying "you are what you eat" may need to be changed to "you are what you eat ... depending on what's in your school's vending machine."

Based on research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, students are more likely to get their required nutritional daily intake when a school offers healthy options in its vending machines. The study, which examined data from a 2005-2006 survey, was conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health.

Despite the legislative step Congress took this week to remove greasy fries and not-so-healthy alternatives from lunch menus, it doesn't look good for students who want to supplement healthy lunchroom meals with non-nutritional vending machine staples.

Looking at the daily habits of nearly 6,000 students, the study underscores the suggestion that vending machines offering chips, cookies and sugary-sweet drinks negatively impact the bodies of the school's student body.

Students in younger grades are particularly susceptible to the offerings and, research indicates, a student's overall daily dietary intake is directly impacted by the school's vending machine food choices. According to the research, schools with vending machines stocked with fruits or vegetables do more to improve students' nutritional intake versus the ones stocked with chips and cookies.

However, the researchers found more than 80 percent of 152 schools in the study had vending machines with choices of "minimal nutritional values." According to the report, schools play a major role in affecting a child's eating habits. While lunchroom meals are federally regulated, foods and beverages sold in vending machines have not had such oversight.

Vending machines are found in 97 percent of the nation's high schools and 82 percent of middle schools, according to the report. Other studies have also shown a correlation between the body mass index and school-wide practices, including a study cited in this report that found for "every additional unhealthy food practice that was permitted in the school, body mass index of the students increased by 10 percent."

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