An estimated three quarters of America’s middle schools have vending machines stocked full of snacks and sodas. Most contain items loaded with sugar, fat, and carbohydrates, some with up to 300-400 calories. This in a nation where roughly one out of three children is considered overweight, putting them at an elevated risk for obesity and diabetes.
The study, of 1,420 vending machines in 251 schools, was organized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). CSPI contends that all foods sold out of vending machines, school stores, and other venues outside of the official school lunch program should make positive contributions to children’s diets and health.
“It’s hard enough for parents to guide their children’s food choices, but it becomes virtually impossible when public schools are peddling junk food throughout the school day,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. “Many parents who send their kids off with lunch money in the morning have no clue that it can be so readily squandered on Coke, Doritos, and HoHos.”
These findings are part of a larger study aimed at reducing obesity in middle school students. The next step will be to eliminate 100 percent fruit juice from these schools’ vending machines, change snack and dessert foods to 200 calories or less, and change chips to reduced fat or baked snacks. More water will be placed in the machines if recommendations are followed.