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Soda bans and schools

September 2, 2008 |  4:18 pm

Joxx1cknweb Eliminate soft drinks at schools and you'll make a change in how many sodas the nation's kids slurp down, right? Hmm. A new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Assn. suggests that the effect is less than huge.

The study, by Meenakshi Fernandes at the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, analyzed data from nearly 11,000 fifth-graders in more than 2,000 schools in 40 states. She looked at how many soft drinks the kids consumed overall, and how many soft drinks they consumed in school. She also compared the consumption rates for kids who went to schools that banned soft drinks with those that permitted them.

Fernandes' conclusion from this:  Soft drink bans in schools led to a 4% reduction in soft drink consumption. "Greater reductions in children's consumption of soft drinks will require policy changes that go beyond food availability in school," she writes.

Of course, these were elementary school kids, who -- as Fernandes notes -- have less money to spend on discretionary items like soda and junk food and less freedom of movement, too. Would a school soda ban have more of an effect on the soft drink habits of middle school and high school kids -- or less?

On the one hand, they wouldn't be able to use their money to buy sodas at school. On the other, what's to stop them from grabbing a soda on the way to or from school to make up for such restrictions? (Soft drinks are banned in LAUSD schools. I wonder if there are any data on how the kids' habits have changed?)

-- Rosie Mestel

Photo credit: Adam Rountree / Bloomberg News