Study: School Vending Machines Peddle Junk

( [email protected] ) May 14, 2004 10:19 AM EDT

According to a new study 75% of the drinks and 85% of the snacks sold in school vending machines qualify as junk food with poor nutritional value.

The study, released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), examined more than 1400 vending machines in 251 schools across 24 states and determined whether their contents were healthy or unhealthy.

Water accounts for only 12% of sales

In their study the CSPI found that soda, juice drinks with less than 50% juice, iced tea and sports drinks comprised three-quarters of total drink sales. Of the snack foods sold in the machines 42% were candy, 25% were chips and 13% were sweet baked goods such as snack cakes.

Bottled water accounted for only 12% and milk only 5% of drink sales. Of the 9,723 total snack slots surveyed, a mere 26 offered a fruit or vegetable—most of those being dried fruit snacks.

Push for Congressional authority

The center is pushing for the US Congress to grant the Department of Agriculture greater authority to regulate vending machine foods, as it already does for cafeteria meals.

The CSPI conceded that vending machines are a valuable revenue stream for school districts, especially those hit hard by US government funding cuts. However in case studies of 14 schools sites, the center found that schools did not lose money after switching to healthier vending machines snacks.