Study finds progress on cutting sodas at schools, but not on fruit, sports drinks

Melissa Healy writes in a Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog post, “The high school or middle school student who can grab a sugar-sweetened soft drink on school grounds during class hours is becoming a rarity,” according to a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.”

The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Bridging the Gap program, found that the percentage “of high school students had access to sugary sodas during school – either at cafeteria concessions or from vending machines” had fallen from 54% in 2006-07 to 25% in 2010-11, while the percentage for middle school students fell from 27% in 2006-07 to 13% in 2010-11.”

The Times notes that USDA, “under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, is preparing to issue new, updated nutritional standards for foods that can be sold on school grounds during the school day.”

Reuters notes that the study comes ahead of the USDA rule on sales of food and drinks outside school cafeterias, which was due in December 2011. Reuters says USDA spokeswoman Regan Hopper offered no comment on the study until it could be reviewed further, and Hopper said that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is seeking additional time for the proposal on “competitive” foods. Reuters adds that critics blame industry lobbyists and lawmakers for the USDA delay in issuing the new rules.

HealthDay quotes the study’s lead author, Yvonne Terry-McElrath of the University of Michigan, as saying, “Our study shows that, although schools are making progress, far too many students still are surrounded by a variety of unhealthy beverages at school. We also know that the problem gets worse as students get older.”

HealthDay notes, “The researchers surveyed more than 1,400 middle schools and more than 1,500 high schools to track beverages sold by these schools outside of meal programs over four academic years beginning in 2006.

Specifically, they looked at places where students could buy high-calorie sodas, such as vending machines, a la carte lines in the cafeteria, school stores and snack bars.”

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