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To cut soda consumption vending machine removal from schools is not enough

Harold Mandel's picture
A student drinking soda

Sugary soda pop has been cited as a major cuplrit in the obesity epidemic and the associated soaring rates of diabetes 2. Yet a lot of people, including young people, continue to drink sugary soda pop often. It has been conjectured that taking vending machines out of schools would help with this problem. However, recent research shows this simply is not enough.

Sodas have been widely sold in vending machines and other school venues across the United States, particularly in high school. Research has suggested policy changes have decreased soda access, but
the impact of lowered access on consumption has not been clear reported PLOS ONE. In this study researchers investigated student, environmental, or policy characteristics which modify the associations which exist between school vending machines and student dietary behaviors.

Students generally consumed less soda and fast food if they were offered in school access to vending machines.

Contrary what has been conjectured, students generally consumed fewer servings of soda per week and consumed fast food on fewer days a week if they were offered in school access to vending machines. The students were also not as likely to consume soda daily.

However, it has been observed that these inverse associations were observed primarily among states which had lower soda and restaurant tax rates and states which did not ban in-school soda sales. The researchers concluded isolated changes to the school food environment may be associated with unintended consequences unless policymakers actually incorporate other initiatives which are designed to discourage overall soda consumption.

Removing school vending machines is not enough to cut soda consumption

The bottom line is removing school vending machines is not enough to cut soda consumption reports the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a matter of fact it has been observed that banning vending machines from schools may actually increase soda and fast food consumption among students. This study which has been published online in the journal PLOS ONE focused exclusively on regular soda consumption.

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An isolated change in the school food environment is not likely to have an impact

The researchers have interpreted this as meaning that an isolated change in the school food environment is not likely to have an impact when high-fat, high-calorie foods and beverages are available for kids from other sources. However, other studies have shown that long-term, comprehensive changes in school food policies, which have included strengthening school meal standards, can have a positive impact on the health of students.

Jamie Chriqui, a senior research scientist at UIC’s Institute for Health Research and Policy, says that policy changes really must be comprehensive and not simply focused on one item such as regular soda or one location such as cafeterias.

Comprehensive policies are necessary

It is a logical conclusion of this study that comprehensive policies are necessary such as the new U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in Schools rule which will first be implemented in the 2014-15 school year. In order to have an effective and lasting effect on the health of students the greater picture of a student's exposure to junk food, including sugary soda, must be kept in mind. To watch students hanging out at a fast food place down the street from their schools spending their money on fatty cheeseburgers and sugary soda pop because the soda machine was removed in their school is pathetic.

If the school administrators really care about the health of the students they should take a careful look at the possibility of switching such healthy drinks as sugarless green tea and soy milk for sugary soda pop in school vending machines. The teachers should take this a step further and include lessons on healthy food in the school curriculum.

This is not a joking matter. The obesity epidemic is so serious more and more kids may never have a chance to really appreciate the advantages the high tech revolution has to offer for their futures as they find themselves slowly dying from obesity locked to the screens of their high tech devices.

Poor dietary habits and sedentary lifestyles severely undermine the optimal functioning of the body and mind. In order to have a future for mankind this generation of kids must be encouraged to consume healthier food and drinks and to find the time to get some exercise just about everyday.