Although many schools are taking steps to limit students’ access to unhealthy foods, the results of a recent study suggest that banning vending machines in schools may lead youth to reach for more soda and fast food.
Using data from the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study, the researchers of the study aimed to identify student, environmental, or policy factors related to school vending machines and student dietary behaviors. The findings were published online on August 1, 2014, in PLOS ONE.
Surprisingly, students who had access to vending machines in school tended to consume 0.53 fewer servings of soda and to consume fast food on 0.24 fewer days per week than students who attended schools with vending machine bans. In addition, 23.9% of students with access to vending machines in school drank soda on a daily basis, compared with 27.9% of those without vending machine access. These associations, however, occurred primarily in states with lower soda and restaurant tax rates and states that did not ban selling soda in schools.
“Isolated changes to the school food environment may have unintended consequences unless policy makers incorporate other initiatives designed to discourage overall soda consumption,” the study authors conclude.