Research corner

`How State Taxes and Policies Targeting Soda Consumption Modify the Association between School Vending Machines and Student Dietary Behaviors: a cross-sectional analysis' by Taber, D R, Chriqui, J F, Vuillaume, R et al

PLoS One, August 2014

If kids are drinking too many fizzy drinks, the solution seems simple: remove fizzy drinks from schools.

Taking such drinks away from the place that children spend a big chunk of their waking hours may seem like a slam-dunk policy but such a move could have unintended consequences, research from the US warns.

Looking at data from the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study, academics were able to build a picture of student diet and access to school vending machines.

They also examined state-level data on how readily fast foods and fizzy drinks were available, and whether such items were taxed.

Contrary to what you might expect, the research found that students consumed fewer servings of fizzy drinks per week if they had access to a vending machine in school. However, the researchers note that data was largely from states that did not have a wider tax or limit on soda consumption outside school.

The conclusion? Possibly an obvious one to anybody working in education: schools can help but they don't hold all the answers.

In the absence of initiatives outside the school environment designed to deter people from drinking fizzy drinks, the research suggests, policymakers shouldn't be surprised if a solely school-based initiative fails to solve the problem.

Sarah Cunnane

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