Kids Choose Junk Food in School
Hamburgers, Cookies, French Fries Are Top Sellers in School Cafeterias
WebMD News Archive
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
- 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
The results of the study appear in the August issue of
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
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.