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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2005 Sep 23;54(37):917-21.

Competitive foods and beverages available for purchase in secondary schools--selected sites, United States, 2004.


The percentage of overweight youths aged 12-19 years in the United States more than tripled from 5% during 1976-1980 to 16% during 1999-2002. Overweight youths are at increased risk for cardiovascular consequences and other serious physical and psychosocial health problems. Because most youths are enrolled in school, the school nutrition environment is integral to any strategy to improve dietary behavior and reduce overweight among youths. In most schools, the nutrition environment has two components: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) school meals program and the sale of competitive foods. USDA defines competitive foods as those foods and beverages, regardless of nutritional value, sold at a school separate from the USDA school meals program. To identify the types of competitive foods and beverages available for purchase from school vending machines or at school stores, canteens, or snack bars, CDC analyzed data from the 2004 School Health Profiles for public secondary schools in 27 states and 11 large urban school districts. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which indicated that, in 2004, the majority of secondary schools (median across states: 89.5%; median across large urban school districts: 81.5%) allowed students to purchase snack foods or beverages from vending machines or at the school store, canteen, or snack bar. In addition, the percentage of schools offering certain types of snack foods and beverages varied across states and large urban school districts. Although the majority of schools offered some nutritious foods and beverages in these settings, the majority of schools also offered less nutritious choices. Educators, families, and school and public health officials should work together to provide school nutrition environments that will help improve dietary behavior and reduce overweight among youths.

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