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J Sch Health. 2012 Mar;82(3):115-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00674.x.

Promoting the purchase of low-calorie foods from school vending machines: a cluster-randomized controlled study.

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TNO, Child Health, P.O. Box 2215, 2301 CE Leiden, Netherlands.



Vending machines account for food sales and revenue in schools. We examined 3 strategies for promoting the sale of lower-calorie food products from vending machines in high schools in the Netherlands.


A school-based randomized controlled trial was conducted in 13 experimental schools and 15 control schools. Three strategies were tested within each experimental school: increasing the availability of lower-calorie products in vending machines, labeling products, and reducing the price of lower-calorie products. The experimental schools introduced the strategies in 3 consecutive phases, with phase 3 incorporating all 3 strategies. The control schools remained the same. The sales volumes from the vending machines were registered. Products were grouped into (1) extra foods containing empty calories, for example, candies and potato chips, (2) nutrient-rich basic foods, and (3) beverages. They were also divided into favorable, moderately unfavorable, and unfavorable products.


Total sales volumes for experimental and control schools did not differ significantly for the extra and beverage products. Proportionally, the higher availability of lower-calorie extra products in the experimental schools led to higher sales of moderately unfavorable extra products than in the control schools, and to higher sales of favorable extra products in experimental schools where students have to stay during breaks. Together, availability, labeling, and price reduction raised the proportional sales of favorable beverages.


Results indicate that when the availability of lower-calorie foods is increased and is also combined with labeling and reduced prices, students make healthier choices without buying more or fewer products from school vending machines. Changes to school vending machines help to create a healthy school environment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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