Beverages and snacks available in vending machines from a subset of Ontario secondary schools: Do offerings align with provincial nutrition standards?
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As part of an evaluation of Ontario's School Food and Beverage Policy (P/PM 150) in a populous Ontario region, this research aimed to: 1) identify, describe and categorize beverages and snacks available for purchase in secondary school vending machines according to P/PM 150 standards; and 2) compare the number and percentage of beverages and snacks within P/PM 150 categories (Sell Most, Sell Less, Not Permitted) from Time I (2012/2013) to Time II (2014).
Representatives from consenting secondary schools assisted researchers in completing a Food Environmental Scan checklist in Times I and II. Sourced nutritional content information (calories, fats, sodium, sugars, ingredients and % daily values) was used to categorize products. The number and percentage of products in P/PM 150 categories were compared between Times by paired t-tests.
Of 26 secondary schools participating in total, 19 participated in both Time periods and were included in the study. There were 75 beverages identified (59 Time I, 45 Time II), mostly water, juices and milk-based beverages; and 132 types of snacks (87 Time I, 103 Time II), mostly grain-based snacks, vegetable/fruit chips, and baked goods. A majority of schools offered one or more Not Permitted beverages (47% Time I, 58% Time II) or snacks (74% Time I, 53% Time II). Significantly more schools met P/PM 150 standards for snacks (p = 0.02) but not beverages in Time II.
Full P/PM 150 compliance was achieved by few schools, indicating that schools, school boards, public health, and food services need to continue to collaborate to ensure nutrient-poor products are not sold to students in school settings.