Commercial activity permitted in schools, such as soft drink ads; the use of Channel One broadcasts in classrooms; sales incentives from soft drink bottlers; and exclusive beverage contracts may discourage a "nutrition-friendly" environment for students, says researchers.
Dr. Claudia Probart, Penn State associate professor of nutritional sciences who led the study, says, "Schools newly created wellness policies as mandated by the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 provide ideal opportunities to examine school environments for advertising that might conflict with their goals for a healthy climate for students."
The study is detailed in the current (December) issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in a paper, "Existence and Predictors of Soft Drink Advertisements in Pennsylvania High Schools." The authors are Probart; Elaine McDonnell, project coordinator, Penn State; Lisa Bailey-Davis, director of operations, Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and Activity; and J. Elaine Weirich, project manager at Penn State.
The researchers sent surveys to 271 school foodservice directors at high schools in Pennsylvania and received 84 percent participation. The schools were representative of the entire population of high schools in Pennsylvania.
Approximately two-thirds (66.5%) of the respondents said soft drink advertisements were located in at least one spot in their school, with 62 percent at vending machines and 27 percent on school grounds such as sports playing fields. More than 10 percent of the respondents said the ads were displayed in the cafeteria.
Factors influencing the number of soft drink ads were soft drink company incentives from distributors, exclusive beverage contracts with the schools and subscriptions to Channel One, a free 12-minute news broadcast with 2 minutes of advertisements.