Surprisingly little research has been done to analyze sales and availability of competitive foods in schools. That is...until now.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University sent surveys to school food-service directors at 271 urban and rural high schools in Pennsylvania to measure the extent of their "competitive food sales." Two hundred and twenty eight surveys were returned.
Hamburgers, pizza and sandwiches are the top selling foods in the a la carte lines, according to the survey. Next comes highfat baked goods (such as cookies, cakes and pastries) then French fries followed by salty snacks.
The survey, printed in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, also reported that a la carte sales provide an average of about $700 per day to a school's foodservice programs.
"The less nutritious choices are ubiquitous, but there are some nutritious choices available," says Claudia Probart, RD, lead author of the study. "We're happy the top foods in the a la carte line (hamburgers, pizza, sandwiches) are ones that meet the USDA nutrition guidelines."
Findings reported in August's Journal of the American Dietetic Association:
- 94% of the high schools have vending machines that are accessible to students.
- 72% of the schools offer water as one of the choices in the vending machines; 67% offer fruit juice; 60% sell soft drinks.
- The most commonly reported foods in vending machines include chips (potato or corn), popcorn, cookies and candy bars.
- Of the top 10 foods offered in vending machines, only three are considered nutritious: water, juice and pretzels.
- The most common foods offered in the 67 school stores that sell food: candy, cookies, chips, pretzels, popcorn and soda.
- Chocolate candy is the item most sold during fund raisers and club sales.