CHICAGO -- Banning vending machines from schools can actually increase soda and fast food consumption among students, if it's the only food policy change implemented, according to research conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The researchers found that 23% of students reported drinking at least one soda per day if they had access to vending machines in schools, compared with 28% of students who did not have access. However, these differences were only observed in states in which soda was taxed less or students were able to buy soda from the school cafeteria or the school store.
The study also found that students reported eating more fast food when vending machines were removed, particularly when state sales tax rates for restaurant foods were lower.
The authors emphasized that an isolated change in the school food environment is not likely to have an impact when kids have access to high-fat and high-calorie foods and beverages from other sources. They advocate for more comprehensive policies.
"Policy changes really need to be comprehensive and not just focused on one item such as regular soda or one location such as cafeterias," said Jamie Chriqui, a study coauthor and senior research scientist at UIC's Institute for Health Research and Policy.
The study included 8,245 high school students in 27 states and linked student data from the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study with state-level data on soda taxes, restaurant taxes and laws governing the sale of soda in schools in 2010. It was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.