Limiting soft drink availability in schools may only have a modest effect on overall soft drink consumption among elementary school children, suggests a study published in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Author Meenakshi M Fernandes of the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, CA, analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study from close to 11,000 fifth graders in 2,303 schools in 40 states and found that limiting availability of soft drinks at school is associated with a 4% decrease in the rate of any consumption overall.
Overall, the study found that when soft drinks are available at school, about one out of four children consume at least one soft drink over the course of a week. For these children, school-based consumption represents about one-half their total consumption. Black non-Hispanic and low-income children tend to consume more. Also, those consuming a high level of soft drinks at school, typically low-income children and children attending rural schools, are more likely to consume a higher level of soft drinks overall.
"While competitive food sales restrictions at school are an important step in decreasing the consumption of unhealthy foods, attention should also be granted to other approaches for limiting availability or attenuating the relationship between availability and consumption,” Fernandes concludes. “Greater reductions in children's consumption of soft drinks will require policy changes that go beyond food availability at school if we aim to significantly reduce children's consumption of soft drinks.”