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Secondary Schools Serve Unhealthy Foods
Date:7/7/2008

nes aren't automatic sources of unhealthful foods and drinks, they are -- along with a la carte cafeteria options -- known to be sources of low-nutrient foods. In other words -- junk food.

In fact, the study found that 91 percent of high school vending machines sell at least some unhealthy foods.

The study also found that a la carte food and beverage options were served in 71 percent, 92 percent, and 93 percent of elementary, middle and high schools, respectively. Almost 80 percent of these options were determined to be unhealthful.

In 75 percent of high schools, students weren't allowed to leave campus during lunch. Yet less than half of all the elementary, middle, or high schools surveyed had a "wellness policy" in place, or took advantage of a government-sponsored fruit and vegetable program. And less than 20 percent of schools offered children the option to buy a low-fat lunch, the study found.

But, Alice H. Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Lab at Tufts University's USDA Human Nutrition Research Center in Boston, said the findings need to be put into perspective.

"I think we put an overemphasis on the food students can access in school, because the majority of a teen's waking hours is not spent in school," she said. "But in any case, comparing elementary school children and high school children is comparing apples and oranges. They're two very different groups of students.

"High school students spend a lot more time in school," Lichtenstein added. "And they have more disposable income. So it's not surprising that they're going to be offered more vending machines. So, yes, it would be nice if in all public schools everything in them would be healthy choices. But I'm not sure that this comparison gets at particularly good information."

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