Students Exposed to School-based Food Advertisements
Due to the childhood obesity epidemic, several programs have been created to promote healthy eating starting in schools. Due to these initiatives, school lunches have been revamped. In a new study, however, researchers found that students are still being exposed to food commercialism during school.
"Although there were significant decreases over time in many of the measures examined, the continuing high prevalence of school-based commercialism supports calls for, at minimum, clear and enforceable standards on the nutritional content of all foods and beverages marketed to youth in school settings," the authors concluded
In the study, head researcher Yvonne Terry-McElrath, M.S.A, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and colleagues first defined food commercialism as anything connected with exclusive beverage contracts, incentives, profits and advertising. For decades, the food and manufacturing companies have used schools as a means of advertising certain products to children and young adults. The team then set out to examine the exposure levels of food commercialism on kids attending different levels of school.
The research team examined data from surveys administered between 2007 and 2012 to elementary, middle school and high school students. The researchers reported that the number of students who attended schools with exclusive beverage contracts fell over the years. The rate of schools with incentive programs and profits also fell from 2007 to 2012.
More specifically, the rates fell from 10.2 percent in 2007 to 2.9 percent in 2012 for schools with exclusive beverage contracts. This meant that the percentages of students attending middle and high schools with these contracts fell from 67.4 percent and 74.5 percent to 49.5 percent and 69.8 percent respectively.
For vending machines, the researchers found that 24.5 percent of students in middle school and 51.4 percent of students in high schools attended schools with a company-sold food vending machine in 2012. The most recent data also revealed that 10.2 percent of elementary students were exposed to fast food at least once a week. For middle school and high school kids, 18.3 percent and 30.2 percent respectively had fast food available to them at least once per week.
The researchers reported that the most common types of food commercialism for elementary kids were coupons. Roughly 63.7 percent of elementary schools students were exposed to some kind of coupon. For middle school students, 49.5 percent of them were exposed to exclusive beverage contracts that the school had. High school kids were also most frequently exposed to exclusive beverage contracts with 69.8 percent of this group stating that they were exposed to these contracts.
The researchers hope that these findings would prompt officials to work harder in promoting healthy eating at school. The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.