|UAMS Survey Shows Percentages of Unhealthy Snacks In Arkansas School Vending Machines Surpass National Rates
UAMS Survey Shows Percentages of Unhealthy Snacks In Arkansas School Vending Machines Surpass National Rates
LITTLE ROCK –– A recent nationwide survey shows that 75 percent of the drinks and 85 percent of the snacks sold in middle- and high-school vending machines lack nutritional value, and Arkansas schools are even worse.
“School vending machines don’t support students’ ability to make healthy eating choices or parents’ ability to feed their children well,” said Carole Garner, M.P.H., R.D., L.D., an assistant professor in the UAMS College of Public Health.
The national survey – organized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest – looked at the contents of 1,420 vending machines in 251 schools in 23 states, including
Of the drinks sold in these school machines, 70 percent nationally and 80 percent in Arkansas were sugary beverages, such as sodas, iced tea, sports drinks and juice drinks; most sodas were regular, not diet, and most juice drinks contained less than 50 percent juice. Nationally, only 12 percent of available beverages were water and only 5 percent were milk, with most being the fattier types of milk (whole or 2 percent). In
Of the snacks sold in the school machines, 80 percent nationally and 84 percent in
“School vending machines containing foods and beverages that are high in calories and/or low in nutrition contribute to several health and nutritional problems,” Garner said. “As children’s caloric intakes have been steadily increasing, so have the rates of childhood obesity.”
Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed detailed standards for nutrient content and serving size for the federal school lunch and breakfast programs, there are not similar standards for other school foods and beverages, such as those sold in vending machines, a la carte snack lines and school stores.
“We hope that the Arkansas Department of Education and Board of Education use their authority to establish and enforce regulations for snacks and drinks that fall outside of the official meal programs, once recommendations are received from the Child Health Advisory Committee established by Act 1220 of 2003,” Garner said.
“Also, schools and school districts can address childhood obesity by helping enact policies to ensure that all vending machine and a la carte items are healthy,” she said.
Garner also heads a statewide coalition called Arkansas Action for Healthy Kids, which is working to ensure that healthy snacks and foods are provided in vending machines, school stores and other venues within the school’s control.
Legislation is pending in Congress that would address improving children’s nutrition in schools. S. 1392 and H.R. 2987 would provide annually between $10 million and $35 million in grants for schools to improve school foods and develop healthy school nutrition environments and would give the secretary of agriculture more authority over food in the entire school environment. The grants would help schools create healthy school nutrition environments and assess the impact of those environments on the health and well-being of the children enrolled in the selected elementary and secondary schools.
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