Change to Healthier Beverages in Schools Is Slow

Beverages not allowed under national guidelines are widely available in elementary schools

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Despite Institute of Medicine guidelines recommending only the sale of water, 100 percent juice, and 1 percent or nonfat milk from vending machines in elementary schools, the percentage of students attending public schools that adhere to these guidelines has increased only to 16 percent, according to research published online Nov. 1 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Lindsey Turner, Ph.D., and Frank J. Chaloupka, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Chicago, conducted a survey of U.S. public and private elementary schools during three consecutive school years to examine the availability of beverages for sale, both via school lunches and competitive venues -- vending machines, stores, a la carte, and snack bars -- in elementary schools.

The researchers noted a significant increase in the availability of beverages from competitive venues in public schools over the study period, from 49 percent in 2006 to 2007 to 61.3 percent in 2008 to 2009. The percentage of public school students in schools adhering to the Institute of Medicine guidelines rose from 10 to 16.1 percent during that time period, and access to high-fat milk in school lunches decreased from 77.9 to 68.3 percent. Flavored milk was still available at lunch most days for 92.1 percent of students in public schools.

"Our results show that much work remains to be done to reduce the availability of unhealthy beverages in elementary schools in the United States, and we encourage policy makers, school officials, and parents to work together to address this important issue," the authors write.

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