Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Can Nutrition Information Increase Sales of Healthful Vended Snacks?

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Can Nutrition Information Increase Sales of Healthful Vended Snacks?

Article excerpt

Concern exists about the nutritional quality of snacks vended in public schools and the apparent conflict between classroom promotion of healthful diets followed by lunch or snacks of chips and candy.|1-4~ The few studies that have addressed this issue|5,6~ followed the 1970 amendments to the School Lunch Act, which granted the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture authority to study how vended snacks sales affected school lunch.|1~ Results of studies on vended snacks, which primarily used refrigerated vending,|5,7~ were interpreted to suggest that if nutritious snacks were offered, students would buy them and vended snack sales would not decrease.|2,8~

Adolescents are the heaviest snackers, obtaining 25% to 40% of energy from snack foods.|9-11~ While the contribution vended snack calories make to the total diet varies by gender, age, and income, caloric intake of vended snacks for some youth has become a sufficiently significant part of the diet to merit investigation. One study of vended snacks reported that one in 10 college students received 20% of snack calories from vended snacks.|12~ In another study, investigators found 32% of a junior high school population consumed vended foods as either a lunch or part of one.|4~ Compared to school and sack lunches, vended lunches were the least nutrient-dense in protein, vitamin A, iron, and fiber? Types of snacks typically offered in unrefrigerated vending -- chips, bakery sweets, and candy -- contributed 8% to 18% of daily fat calories in Maine adolescents,|13~ and were consumed in place of breakfast by 6% of adolescents surveyed in New York and Atlanta.|14~

Total U.S. vended snack sales continue to increase yearly,|15~ and food marketers predict a continued increase in vended food and snack sales in the 1990s.|16~ Vended and fast foods will continue to be popular choices for youth who, when hunger hits, select from what is readily available. A key objective in the Food and Nutrition Board's report Improving America's Diet and Health|17~ seeks to increase environment strategies, like offering nutrient-dense snack choices, to help people meet the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Professionals need to understand better what occurs when changes in availability of food are made, especially when food choices are based on expediency.

This study examined types of snacks purchased from unrefrigerated vending machines, the kind relevant to most vending decisions. The trend in rending is away from refrigeration for low-volume accounts, because such machines are expensive. Cost is high due to refrigeration, short shelf life of perishable snacks, and frequent maintenance required. Snack selection was studied in relation to increasing the availability of nutrient-dense snack options and providing nutrient information on selected vending sites on the campus of Michigan State University. Earlier studies with refrigerated vending machines in schools indicated such changes increased sales of vended snack items.|5,7~ A similar effect was hypothesized in this study.

METHOD

Nutritional Density

In an assessment prior to the study, nutritional density of 133 candy and chip items vended on campus were evaluated for eight nutrients used in nutrition labeling. Dietary fiber was added, because fiber intakes generally are low in the U.S. diet and are addressed in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. An intake 20 grams of dietary fiber was selected for use in the Index of Nutritional Quality (INQ) score, as the low end of the 20-30 gram range recommended by the National Cancer Institute. Sources of nutrient information included nutrition labels on vended items, USDA Nutrient Database, product manufacturers, and food composition reference books.

The Index of Nutritional Quality (INQ), developed by Hansen and colleagues|18~ and later adapted by Guthrie,|19~ was used to assess nutrient density of vended snacks. For each snack an INQ was computed for protein; Vitamins A, C, |B. …

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