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WMJ. 2005 Jul;104(5):38-43.

Competitive food initiatives in schools and overweight in children: a review of the evidence.

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  • 1University of Wisconsin, Department of Family Medicine, Madison, WI, USA.



Recent research has shown significant increases in the rates of obesity in US adults and children. Despite the widespread discussion about childhood overweight, relatively little discussion focuses on solutions.


We reviewed the literature on school programs and policies that address competitive foods-commonly called "junk" foods. These foods tend to be high in sugar or fat and provide minimal nutritive value.


Sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas contribute to weight gain and poor nutrition among students-the average student consumes 31 pounds of sugar in these drinks annually. The sale of competitive foods in schools often competes with the more nutritious school lunch programs. With minimal federal and state policies addressing the sale of competitive foods, individual school districts in Wisconsin and elsewhere have explored various alternatives to improve school nutrition. The evidence suggests that these policies can be effective and at the same time increase food sale revenue.


Communities may be able to improve childhood nutrition through school-based nutrition programs and policies that address the sale of competitive foods.

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