Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Kids Choose Junk Food in School

Hamburgers, Cookies, French Fries Are Top Sellers in School Cafeterias

WebMD Health News

Aug. 1, 2005 -- Hamburgers, cookies, and French fries are top sellers at U.S. high schools, despite what's on the menu for lunch.

A new study shows many of the items sold in school cafeterias, vending machines, school stores, and by clubs during the school day are of low nutritional value and may contribute to childhood obesity.

In the first study of so-called "competitive foods" sold in schools, researchers surveyed public high schools in Pennsylvania and found the top-selling categories of a la carte items in cafeterias were:

  • Hamburgers, pizza, and sandwiches
  • Cookies, crackers, cakes, pastries, and other baked goods not low in fat
  • French fries
  • Salty snacks not low in fat
  • Carbonated beverages

In addition, the most popular food items sold in school stores or by school clubs were candy bars and chocolate.

Researchers say the good news is that water and fruit juice were the most commonly sold vending machine items but more than half of schools offer carbonated beverages and sugary soft drinks to students in vending machines.

The results of the study appear in the August issue of Pediatrics.

Top Food Sellers at School

Researchers say 15% of school-aged children are overweight and the diets of adolescents are of lower quality of any other age group.

In an effort to improve students' diets and provide nutritious foods, the government regulates what's sold as part of the national school lunch program. But sales of other foods at school are minimally regulated.

Researchers say school food service directors are put in the position of appealing to students' tastes, which tend to favor foods low in nutritional value, while planning meals that meet U.S. nutritional guidelines. Many of these programs are also required to be financially self-supporting.

The study suggests that a la carte food sales provide a major source of income for schools with sales averaging $700 per day in Pennsylvania high schools, 85% of which receive no financial support from their school districts.

Other results of the study include:

  • Water is the most popular item offered in school vending machines with 72% of schools offering bottled water. But 59% of schools offer carbonated beverages in their vending machines.
  • 67% of school stores sell food items, and the top-selling items were candy bars and other forms of candy.
  • Chocolate candy was the most popular item sold by school clubs during school hours, followed by subs or hoagies and high-fat baked goods.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
mother and daughter talking
child brushing his teeth
Sipping hot tea
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
rl with friends
tissue box
Child with adhd