New research suggests that as America fights obesity in ever younger children, more public elementary schools are pulling sugar-sweetened beverage and high-fat milk from their cafeteria offerings.
Five years ago, almost half of elementary school students in a large national survey could buy sugary beverages or whole milk at school.
Two years ago, that was down to a third, according to research by Lindsey Turner, a health psychologist at the University of Illinois.
Turner said many schools are simply pulling vending machines, snack bars and a-la-cart cafeteria lines out of their schools.
“Also what we’re finding is that where those venues are present at school, the types of beverage that are being offered are much healthier, and in many cases are limited to only the healthy beverages that are recommended by the Institute of Medicine,” Turner said.
Those are water, 100 percent juice, and nonfat or 1 percent milk.
The Food Trust’s Allison Karpyn said a 2006 federal requirement that schools participating in the subsidized lunch program form a ‘wellness committee’ is likely part of the reason for the reduction.
“Those wellness committees now have really created a new kind of excitement around what kinds of policies and projects schools can be doing, and beverages is one that always comes up as an issue,” Karpyn. “‘Is this something we should look more carefully at?'”
Several years ago the Food Trust worked with the Philadelphia school district to develop a policy of allowing only water, juice, low-fat milk and, in limited cases, sports drinks, in elementary schools.
Karpyn said that continues to be one of the strictest beverage policies in the country.