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Issue Date: Vol. 54, No. 3, March 2014, Posted On: 2/4/2014

Study: Most U.S. Students Are Targets Of In-School Marketing, But Exclusive Beverage Vending Contracts Are On Decline

Emily Jed
TAGS: vending, school vending machines, vending machine usage in schools, food marketing, JAMA Pediatrics, soda vending machine, marketing to kids, University of Illinois/

ANN ARBOR, MI -- Most public elementary, middle and high school students are allegedly exposed to marketing efforts by food and beverage companies at their schools. However, exclusive vending contracts by soda giants are on the decline, according to a study published in the American Medical Association's JAMA Pediatrics.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and the University of Illinois's Institute for Health Research and Policy, found that many of the products marketed to students are "nutritionally poor."

University of Michigan researcher Yvonne Terry-McElrath and colleagues analyzed data from surveys of school administrators at 2,445 elementary schools, 816 middle schools and 802 high schools around the country.

The percentage of students attending schools with exclusive beverage contracts accompanied by incentive programs and profits from beverage sales decreased from 2007 to 2012 for all grades.

The researchers found that only about 3% of elementary school students attended schools with exclusive beverage contracts with a specific vendor in 2012, down from 10% in 2007. Nearly 50% of middle school students and 70% of high school students attended schools with these exclusive contracts in 2012, compared with 67% and 75%, respectively, in 2007.

Nearly a quarter of middle schoolers and slightly more than half of high school students attended schools with food vending machines, according to the study. Additionally, 10% of elementary students, 18% of middle school students and 30% of high school students went schools where "fast food" was available at least once a week.

"Although there were significant decreases over time in many of the measures we examined, the continuing high prevalence of school-based commercialism supports calls for, at minimum, clear and enforceable standards on the nutritional content of all foods and beverages marketed to youth in school settings," Terry-McElrath said.

The study was based on data from the Food and Fitness Study conducted at the University of Illinois-Chicago and the Youth, Education and Society Study, conducted at University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. Both studies are part of a larger research initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, entitled Bridging the Gap: Research Informing Policy and Practice for Healthy Youth Behavior.

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